Nov 24 2018

Turkish police raid onion and potato warehouses in struggle to curb inflation

In parallel with the Turkish government’s plans to curb soaring inflation by preventing hoarding and what it calls speculative pricing, financial police have raided warehouses in different parts of the country suspected of stockpiling onions and potatoes.

Turkey has been beset by skyrocketing prices this year as the Turkish lira slid against the dollar and inflation climbed to a 15-year high of 25.2 percent.

Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak ordered inspectors to the agricultural region of Çorum on Tuesday, northeast of the capital Ankara, to comb through storage depots and count onions. The increase in the price of onions is three times higher than overall inflation, government figures show. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeated on Thursday that the government planned to inspect warehouses that were suspected of stockpiling vegetables. 

“Everyone now sees that the attacks against Turkey also have an economic dimension,” he said. “There is no difference between a terrorist who has a gun or a bomb and a terrorist who has dollars, euros, and interest rates,” Erdoğan said during a speech at the presidential palace to local administrative officers, known as muhtars,  from across the country.

Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak speaks during an event to announce his programme to fight inflation, in Istanbul, Turkey October 9, 2018.
Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak speaks during an event to announce his programme to fight inflation, in Istanbul, Turkey October 9, 2018. (Reuters)

The metropolitan municipality of the western province of Bursa announced on Friday that police seized 35 tons of potatoes during an inspection. It said that inspectors would continue action against storage depots responsible for increasing fruit and vegetable prices via hoarding.

Meanwhile, security forces in the southeastern Turkish province of Mardin have seized 30 tons of onions after raiding a warehouse where they said large amounts of the staple food had been stockpiled by traders seeking to exploit high prices, Turkish pro-government newspaper Star reported late on Thursday.

Turkey’s annual onion consumption amounts to around 2 million tons, so the size of the stocks seized in the raids are far too small to affect supply or prices, Turkish journalist and presenter Mirgün Cabas said in a tweet.

Turkish journalsit Bülent Mumay noted in a tweet that, although Turkey’s pro-government media contingent had lent its support to the onion inspection regime by reporting that it had already brought prices down, prices had remained stable.

Ali Ekber Yıldırım, an expert on Turkish agricultural policies, said this week that police had seized 50 tons of onions in warehouses in the capital Ankara’s Polatlı district. 

“The onions have to be kept in warehouses after the harvest,” he said. “The next harvest is in April 2019 so it is a good thing that there are onions in warehouses, otherwise what will we eat?”

“They are raiding warehouses in villages, they are filing official documents naming villagers as hoarders,” some residents of Polatlı told opposition news website on Thursday. 

“The harvest is in August to September, some of it is sold immediately, the rest is put in warehouses and is sold in the winter,” the villagers said. “This goes on until the next harvest starts in Adana (in southern Turkey).”