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Tomatoes and cucumbers at a Turkish market
The price for fresh fruits and vegetables has increased by 25%Image: DW/U. Danisman

Turks struggle against rising inflation

Daniel Bellut | Fatima Celik
January 31, 2021

Double-digit inflation and rising consumer prices have taken their toll on Turkey. Experts blame the government for the runaway prices while President Erdogan says foreign entities are behind his country's demise.


Turkey's economic woes are nothing new. The country's official currency, the lira, has been on a downward slide for the past two years, forcing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to announce tough monetary and fiscal measures to stop the decline.

And that's not all he's done. He also fired his central bank chief, Murat Uysal, and the finance minister, his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, who officially left office for health reasons.

Nothing seems to have worked, however, and little has improved in Turkey. The lira remains anemic, food and consumer prices have dramatically increased, and life for people in the country has grown all the more difficult — not to mention more expensive. According to consumer price indicators, year-on-year inflation is up 6% and overall inflation is at 20.6%.

A man counts his Turkish liras as he leaves from a currency shop in central Istanbul
Turks are digging deeper into their pockets to pay for food and other goodsImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Giannakouris

Erdogan promises harsh measures

Turkey's currency troubles aren't just abstract concerns. A visit to a local market reveals that everyday items like fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, olive oil and milk are much more expensive than they were just weeks ago. Many everyday purchases have seen price hikes of 25%, while fruits and vegetables are now almost 34% more expensive, breaking previous records. 

Erdogan has blamed merchants for price gouging and promised to punish those responsible.

"We can no longer tolerate the oppression of normal Turks in this way," he said, calling on merchants to stop bullying consumers.

The president said he would regulate food prices in the coming months and plans to introduce an "early warning system" to detect exorbitant price changes at local markets.

A baker and his wares at a market in Ankara
People have seen large week-to-week price increases at markets in TurkeyImage: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Weißbrod

Critics blame the government for the skyrocketing food prices, saying it spent too much time propping up the county's construction industry while ignoring its agricultural sector. Turkey, climatically speaking, is well suited to produce the food it needs but is dependent upon imports of both fruits and vegetables from abroad to meet demand. 

Are Turkey's farms doomed?

Economist Baris Soydan said he blames neo-liberal policies for runaway inflation in Turkey is experiencing on the food front.

"There's less and less acreage these days to actually farm on, which explains why farmers can't harvest what consumers actually need," Soydan said. "The government in the last 10 years took away farmland and placed huge housing projects on them."

Turkey's parliament said it wants to do more for farmers and plans to lower taxes, guarantee sales and clamp down on exports.   

Farmers demand more help from the government

Baki Remzi Suicmez, the head of Turkey's Chamber of Agriculture, isn't satisfied and said the government needs to do more.

"The farming sectors in almost all industrialized countries got much more help than Turkey's did when the COVID-19 pandemic hit," Suicmez said. "Turkey failed in this regard, by not lowering production costs or offering easier access to credit."

A fruit and vegetable stand at a market in Ayvalik
Farmers deserve more support from the Turkish government, Suicmez saidImage: picture-alliance/imagebroker/M. Siepmann

Soydan also criticized the government in Ankara.

"President Erdogan didn't even make it possible to lower food prices," he said. "With diesel fuel and fertilizer remaining so expensive, farmers remain under intense pressure just to make ends meet."

Erdogan, however, continues to blame greedy merchants, global drought and the coronavirus pandemic for the country's woes. 

In the past, the Turkish president was keen to blame what he termed dark forces and so-called foreign "food terrorists" for the country's problems. He said the terrorists, working together with international speculators, were bent on doing nothing less than spiking Turkey's food prices. 

This article has been adapted from German.

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