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New hikes in food, utility prices further cripple Turks’ purchasing power

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A staggeringly high cost of living has become the new normal in Turkey, where recent increases in food and utility prices are raising the prospect of increasing inflation, which is expected to top 60 percent in March, further crippling the purchasing power of citizens.

The prices of basic food products such as soft Turkish flatbread, traditionally consumed by Turks during the holy month of Ramadan, meat and sugar have recently increased, according to local media reports.

Cihan Kolivar, chairman of the Bread Producers Employers Union, told the Sözcü daily that the price of a 400-gram flatbread would be between TL 7.5 and 10, while a 330-gram flatbread would be sold at TL 6 during Ramadan, which will begin after sunset on Friday.

Kolivar added that they have observed the dramatic decrease in Turks’ purchasing power in bread sales and predicted that flatbread sales would be lower this Ramadan than in the previous ones.

Meat prices are also expected to increase as of April, local media reports said, citing data from the Meat and Milk Board, the prices of which are below the market.

The state-controlled board last week announced a 48 percent increase in red meat prices. After the hikes, the price of one kilogram of ground meat reached TL 83 ($5.60) and the price of one kilogram of stew meat reached TL 92 ($6.20).

The Turkish Sugar Refineries Corporation (Türkşeker) also announced a price hike of 31 percent on Thursday, according to Sözcü, which said the price of a kilo of sugar rose from TL 5.96 to TL 7.8.

Together with the previous jump by 20 percent in early March, the cumulative 50 percent increase in sugar prices came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a value added tax (VAT) of 1 percent for basic food items, down from the previous 8 percent, on Feb. 12.

The results of a recent opinion poll conducted by the Ankara-based MetroPoll company found that 82.1 percent of consumers did not feel any drop in the cost of living as inflation continued to soar.

Shortly before Thursday’s hike, Erdoğan, speaking to reporters during his flight back from Uzbekistan, said Türkşeker would “take steps towards the positive” regarding sugar prices.

Journalist Bahadır Özgür shared the readout distributed by the president’s staff, saying they omitted some of Erdoğan’s remarks on sugar prices after news that Türkşeker had raised prices by 31 percent reached the plane.

“In the first version, Erdoğan replies to a question on food [prices], saying ‘Türkşeker will take positive steps and not allow these opportunists [to profit]. Prices are good.’ When the news that Türkşeker had raised prices by 30 percent reached the plane, they deleted that part in a panic, sending out a new text,” Özgür said.

While the president’s remarks were included in independent media outlet reports, they were omitted in reports by such pro-government publications as the Hürriyet, Sabah and Yeni Şafak dailies and broadcaster NTV.

Turkey’s Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAŞ), the state-owned energy importer, also said late on Thursday it had raised natural gas prices for industrial facilities by 50 percent and those for households by 35 percent.

BOTAŞ added that natural gas prices for electricity production were going up by 44.3 percent as of April 1, citing the global rise in energy prices as the reason for the hikes.

Turkey imports almost all of its energy, leaving it vulnerable to big price swings, Reuters said on Friday, adding that the country’s energy costs started rising in September and surged 212 percent year-on-year in the first two months of 2022 to $16.8 billion, according to official data.

Economists calculate the hike in household natural gas prices will increase inflation by 55 basis points, Reuters added.

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