Export restrictions strangling onion, potato producers in Turkey

Restrictions that Turkey’s government imposed on potato and onion exports have left producers struggling to shift their stock and could lead to hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wasted crops, Turkey’s Dünya newspaper reported.

In late 2018, the government accused producers of speculatively stockpiling crops after food price inflation skyrocketed, leaving consumers struggling to buy staple goods. Police raided food warehouses, while the government set up subsidised food stalls and, fearing a repeat of the inflation, this year added potatoes and onions to a list of products that require special authorisation to export. 

Domestic demand for potatoes and onions this year has been low and buyers in Turkey were offering prices that would leave producers making a loss, Dünya said.

The producers have meanwhile been unable to shift stock abroad thanks to the regulation, the newspaper said.

With consumption of onions until the beginning of the new growing season in May expected to reach around 200,000 tonnes, and some 500,000 tonnes in warehouses, this could mean hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food left to rot.

The low profit margins and restrictions from international sales could cause many farmers to turn away from planting the staple crops, Dünya said.

“Last year it was exports of 60,000 tonnes to India and other countries that saved us, if only a little,” Haydar Karaca, the head of an onion producers’ union in northern Turkey’s Amasya province, told the newspaper. “If the situation goes on like this, farmers won’t plant much next year because they won’t be able to pay for diesel, fertilisers, pesticides and other expenses.”