Panic in Turkey due to shortage of sunflower oil

Turkey imports 70% of sunflower oil and wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Understandably, actions in the Middle West are fueling fears of shortages in stores.

In recent days, the situation in Ukraine has caused real panic in Turkish families. President of the Vegetable Oil Traders Association Tahir Buyukhelvajigil said in an interview that 16 Turkish container ships carrying sunflower oil had run aground in Russian ports in the Sea of ​​Azov and could not return to Turkey.

Dozens of videos showing Turks in a panic buying up stocks of vegetable oil left in stores have circled the Internet. On one of them, an elderly man proudly holds two canisters of sunflower oil in his hands. This is an unprecedented picture for Turkey’s youth, but one that is familiar to older people who remember the economic crises of the 1970s and 1980s.

But even before the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, sunflower oil in Turkey was not cheap. A year ago, it cost 19 Turkish liras, and today it reaches 40, that is, about 2.50 euros. An unbelievably high price considering that more than 10 million Turkish workers receive a minimum wage of 312 euros, and about 3.5 million work for even less.

According to the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture, the country is currently the largest importer of sunflower oil in the world with a share of 37%. It covers its needs by 65% ​​at the expense of Russia and about 4% at the expense of Ukraine.

The difficult economic situation in Turkey is also associated with a large increase in the consumption of sunflower oil. If in the period 2015-2016 it was 2.1 million tons, then five years later it exceeded 3.3 million tons.

Thanks to the increase in sunflower cultivation in Turkey, the situation has somewhat smoothed out, but without meeting the huge demand. Eastern Thrace is the heart of sunflower cultivation in Turkey as almost 50% of Turkish sunflower oil is produced here.

Therefore, the question of many Turks why their country is forced to import such a large amount of sunflower oil is quite reasonable. It should be noted that Turkey imports not only 70% of sunflower oil from Russia and Ukraine, but also 70% of its demand for wheat. Fears of a shortage of Turkish population are not completely groundless, especially after the situation in Ukraine.

Even more worrying, however, is the further explosion of inflation, which officially topped 54% in February. Most of the population is suffocating under the weight of the price hike, which is seen as the result of President Tayyip Erdogan’s policies. Added to the effects of the pandemic are now the effects of a Russian special operation in Ukraine, in the wider region, which removes the possibility of price stabilization.

In an interview with DW, Baki Remzi Svikmez, president of the Turkish Chamber of Rural Engineers (τουρκικού επιμελητηρίου αγρονόμων μηχανικών), said: “Turkey must be protected from crises.” Only long-term planning and government subsidies will reduce dependence on imports of sunflower oil, wheat and corn, the Turkish expert said, asking the ΑΚΡ government, like some of his colleagues, to draw up a five-year deficit plan.

After intensive negotiations between Ankara and Moscow, container ships with sunflower oil finally received the green light from the Russian authorities on Wednesday to sail to Turkey. Several media interrupted the program to broadcast the latest news. This alone shows how critical the situation in Turkey is.

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