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Drastic rise in prices leads Turks to stock up on food

Turkey's inflation police visits supermarkets to check the prices regularly. PHOTO: Bloomberg

Food prices in Turkey, which saw an increase of between 15 and 50 percent depending on the product over the past week, has prompted more and more people to stock up on food, local media reported on Thursday.

In addition to Turkey’s annualized inflation rate, which climbed to 21.31 percent in November, up from 19.89 percent in October and the highest figure the country has seen in three years, a currency crisis also has been eating into the incomes of Turks, shrinking their purchasing power.

Turks started to stock up on food after the lira, which has recently been in free fall, losing almost half its value against the dollar since the beginning of the year, plunged to 13.50 against the US currency in late November.

Some supermarkets limited customers to buying only one of a specific product per purchase in order to prevent them from stockpiling food, especially such basic foodstuffs as milk, sunflower oil, flour, sugar and tea, local media reports said.

According to the Turkish media, the amount spent to purchase food by credit card increased by 10.22 percent in the week that ended Nov. 26 compared to the previous week. The same amount also saw an 18 percent surge compared to the last week of October.

It is widely argued that credit card expenditures had increased because people who wanted to protect themselves from the price hikes had bought more than they needed.

“Recently, there is stockpiling even in the automotive industry. They also stockpile by storing new cars in many closed parking lots. We will confiscate the stockpilers’ possessions,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters earlier this week.

The president, who is blamed for the country’s currency crisis for subscribing to the unorthodox belief that low-interest rates are the antidote to high inflation, blames “opportunists” for the rising cost of basic services and frequently claims Turkey is doing far better than Western countries in the supply of food.

According to the latest OECD Consumer Price Index (CPI), Turkey had the highest food price inflation by far among the 38 OECD countries, with food prices in the country rising by 28.8 percent in September and 27.4 percent in October, compared to the same period of the previous year.

Earlier this month Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), urged the management of supermarkets not to increase in winter the prices of basic foods such as flour, oil, milk, bulgur, pasta, lentils, eggs, cheese, salt and a different kind of vegetable every month, so that people in Turkey could “get through” the season.

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