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Feb 13 2019

Erdoğan says Turkey may expand cheap vegetable sales scheme nationwide

The Turkish government could expand a scheme to sell cheap vegetables in Istanbul and Ankara across the country following next month’s local elections, President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday.

“God willing, after the elections, with the organisation of municipalities we might take steps to carry these sales to the very remote corners of Turkey,” Turkish NTV news reported Erdoğan as telling traders.

Turkish authorities this week opened their own markets in İstanbul and Ankara to sell affordable vegetables and fruits to consumers who have been faced with a sharp rise in food costs - a surge of  31 percent last month - which Ankara blames on the exploitation of traders.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is faced with frustrated voters  as the country prepares for local elections on March 31. Consumers are confronted by rising living costs and other fallout from the country’s  currency crisis last year, when the lira lost 30 percent of its value against the dollar as the country.

Food comprises roughly one quarter of the basket of goods used to measure Turkish inflation, which hit more than 20 percent in January.

“I would like to think this is a stop-gap measure that will be in place until the local elections to protect the government from an electoral backlash due to high food price inflation,” İnan Demir, senior emerging markets economist at Nomura, told Reuters. “I honestly don’t expect that this will be extended after the election.”

Furthering the initiative would also raise concerns about the level of government intervention in markets, Demir added.

Turkey’s strongman has accused retailers of exploitation and hiking prices while Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has repeatedly warned against those allegedly involved in what he called food terrorism to support a government initiative to drive down the price of fresh produce.