Turkish Onion Prices Surge by an Eye-Watering 51%

(Bloomberg) -- Onion prices have surged in Turkey, defying a government crackdown on inflation.

Prices surged 51 percent in November, the most of any component in a basket of prices whose gains decelerated in November to 21.2 percent from a 15-year high the month before. The government has been raiding storehouses where producers and dealers store onions, accusing them of hoarding crops to hike up prices.

“We are seeing how they are hoarding onions in warehouse raids,” and they will pay the price, state-run Anadolu Agency cited President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying last month. Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli took up the same theme, warning that the government will be chasing “onion opportunists,” according to Anadolu Agency.

Unorthodox Methods

The Turkish government has come up with some unconventional methods as part of their “all-out fight” against inflation announced in October. On top of the storehouse raids, municipal police have been paying surprise visits to supermarkets, scanning the shelves and issuing warnings to shop managers suspected of price-gouging.

Hurriyet reported on Nov. 26 that Turkish soldiers raided a storehouse filled with 1,300 tons of onions on a tip. Municipal police then filed a criminal complaint against three suspects, accusing them of attempting to distort prices, and the government seized the onions.

The government’s raids against onion warehouses drew criticism from Ugur Gurses, an independent economic columnist and former central bank official. If raids cut onion supplies, that would lead to a further spike in prices, Gurses warned on Twitter.

Crop Blight

But onions may be resisting the crackdown for a non-commercial reason. Last month, the Hurriyet newspaper said diseased vegetables may be to blame.

“Onions become blighted if exposed to high doses of sunlight during their ripening period,” Hurriyet quoted Antalya Chamber of Commerce assembly member Muzaffer Aydoga as saying. “Onion prices will rise on the lack of healthy crops.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.