Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has temporarily banned direct exports of some agricultural products from the country, including cooking oils, oilseeds, margarine, lentils and dried beans, for fear of market shortages and of a spike in inflation.
The ban was imposed under a new government regulation delegating the power to the ministry to limit exports of certain agricultural products at its discretion in order to stabilize the domestic market.
This temporary ban on exports, which was enacted in the middle of the season, worried most in the olive sector.
Regarding oils, the restriction concerns bulk olive oil and vegetable oils such as sunflower, rapeseed, soybean, mustard and cottonseed oil. Turkish bottled olive oil was excluded from the export ban.
A similar and highly controversial five-month export ban on bulk olive oil was implemented last year in Turkey due to price speculation and uncertainty caused in the agribusiness sector of the country. country by the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Ready-to-use bulk grain, oilseed and olive oil shipments have also been halted by the Turkish Ministry of Commerce and are being held in bonded warehouses at Turkish ports.
Turkey, or Türkiye, after the country’s official name change, has also relaxed import requirements for agricultural products from Ukraine, mainly sunflower oil, to deal with possible shortages in the market due to disruptions to shipping caused by the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Turkey’s annual inflation rate soared to nearly 49% in January as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a reduction in value-added tax on basic groceries to reduce the cost to consumers .
“We will not let inflation crush our nation,” Erdoğan said.
Vahit Kirişçi, the Turkish Minister of Agriculture, meanwhile denied the existence of shortages of basic foodstuffs in the country.
“The information shared that there is not enough stock of basic foodstuffs such as sunflower oil is not correct,” Kirişçi wrote in a post. Tweeter. “The necessary measures have been taken. Our country has sufficient stocks of sunflower oil. Don’t trust baseless claims. There is no need to worry. »
The Turkish Association of Aegean Olive Oil Exporters (EZZIB) criticized the ministry for acting unilaterally to implement the export ban and called for the resumption of exports.
“As the sole representative of olive oil exporters in Türkiye, we find the ban on the export of olive oil in packages over five kilograms by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry without consulting the industry as grossly wrong and demand that this wrong be reversed as soon as possible,” the association said in a statement.
“Olive oil is not a substitute for vegetable oils,” the statement added. “Even if the prices of olive oil and vegetable oil reach the same level, we believe that there will not be a large increase in consumption in the short term.
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The association also argued that the burden placed on the country’s olive oil sector would be impossible and that Turkish producers would take the hit.
“Under these conditions, the ban on exporting olive oil in packages will deal an irreparable blow to the sector,” EZZIB said. “Olive oil does not come from Ukraine or Russia; it is a national and national culture produced thanks to the hard work of the Turkish producer.
The association’s concerns were echoed by Turkish National Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK) Chairman of the Board, Mustafa Tan, who rejected the ban on the export of olive oil. bulk olive oil as detrimental to the country’s olive oil sector.
“This temporary ban on exports, which was enacted in the middle of the season, has made most members of the olive sector, as well as the Aegean Exporters Association, anxious,” Tan Olive Oil Times said.
“If we proceed with this ban, it may harm Turkey’s position in the markets in which we are currently present with our olive oil, and it will also complicate matters for possible new market entries,” he added. he added.
Tan noted that Turkey produced around 235,000 tonnes of olive oil in the 2021/22 campaign, while 45,000 tonnes were stored at the start of the season and the country’s exports reached around 50,000. tons of olive oil.
“Considering the domestic consumption of around 150,000 tons, it can be said that there is a surplus of almost 80,000 tons of olive oil that should be exported,” he said. “It does not seem realistic to mitigate the possibility of a shortage of sunflower oil and other vegetable oils resulting from the Russian-Ukrainian war with olive oil under current conditions as an alternative oil.
“Therefore, members of the olive oil sector demand the immediate revocation of this temporary ban,” Tan added.
The government regulation delegating to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry the power to institute restrictions on the export of agricultural products is valid until the end of 2022.