Battling a sharp rise in food costs, Turkish authorities opened their own markets on Monday to sell cheap vegetables directly to shoppers, cutting out retailers who the government has accused of jacking up prices, says Reuters.
Crowds queued outside municipality tents to buy tomatoes, onions and peppers in Istanbul’s Bayrampasa district, waiting for an hour for items selling at half the regular shop prices.
The move to set up state markets follows a 31 per cent year-on-year surge in food prices in January and precedes local elections next month in which President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party faces a tough challenge to maintain support.
Traders blamed storms in southern Turkey’s farming region for food price inflation, as well as rising costs of labour and transport. Authorities called it “food terror” and said they would punish anyone trying to keep prices artificially high.
President Tayyip Erdogan said in a campaign speech on Monday:
This was a game. They started manipulating prices, they tried to make prices skyrocket. This was an attempt to terrorise society.
Under the government initiative, municipalities are selling vegetables at around 50 per cent of prices recorded by the Turkish Statistical Institute in January. A maximum of three kilos of goods per person is allowed.
The move will be extended to rice and pulses such as lentils, as well as cleaning products, Erdogan said.
The project is currently taking place only in Istanbul, where around 50 sites are selling the cut-price goods, and in the capital Ankara. That means it is unlikely to have a direct impact on national inflation figures but could mitigate the price rises for residents of Turkey’s two largest cities.