The Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has temporarily banned direct exports of select agricultural products from the country, including cooking oils, oilseeds, margarine, lentils and dry beans, over concerns of market shortages and a surge in inflation.
The ban was imposed pursuant to a new governmental regulation delegating authority to the ministry to curb exports of certain agricultural products at its discretion to stabilize the domestic market.
This temporary ban on the exports, which was enacted in the middle of the season, made most of the members of the olive sector anxious.
With respect to oils, the curb pertains to olive oil in bulk and vegetable oils such as sunflower, rapeseed, soybean, mustard and cottonseed oil. Turkish bottled olive oil was excluded from the export prohibition.
A similar and highly controversial five-month export prohibition of bulk olive oil was implemented last year in Turkey over price speculation and uncertainty caused in the country’s agri-food sector by the Covid-19 pandemic.See Also:Trade News
Ready-to-go shipments of grains, oilseeds, and olive oil in bulk, have also been halted by the Turkish Ministry of Trade and are kept in bonded warehouses at Turkish ports.
Turkey, or Türkiye, after the official rebranding of the country’s name, also eased import requirements for agricultural products from Ukraine, mainly sunflower oil, to fend off possible market shortages due to disruptions in shipments caused by the Russo-Ukrainian War.
Turkey’s annual inflation rate surged to almost 49 percent in January, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announcing a reduction in value-added tax on basic food products to lower the cost for consumers.
“We will not let inflation crush our nation,” Erdoğan said.
Vahit Kirişçi, the Turkish agriculture minister, on the other hand, refuted that there were shortages of basic foodstuffs in the country.
“The information shared that there is not enough stock in basic food products such as sunflower oil is not correct,” Kirişçi wrote in a tweet. “Necessary measures have been taken. Our country has sufficient sunflower oil stocks. Do not rely on baseless claims. There is no cause for concern.”
Turkey’s Aegean Olive Oil Exporters Association (EZZIB) criticized the ministry for acting unilaterally to implement the export ban and asked for the exports to resume.
“As the only representative of olive oil exporters in Türkiye, we find the ban on olive oil export in packages over five kilograms by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry without consulting the sector as extremely wrong and demand that this wrong be reversed as soon as possible,” the association said in a press release.
“Olive oil is not a substitute for vegetable oils,” the release added. “Even if olive oil and vegetable oil prices come to the same level, we think that there will not be a great increase in consumption in the short term.”See Also:New Regulation in Turkey Permits Olive Tree Removals for Coal Mining
The association also argued that the burden put on the country’s olive oil sector would be impossible and Turkish producers would take the rap.
“Under these conditions, the prohibition of exporting olive oil in packages will inflict an irreparable blow to the sector,” the EZZIB said. “Olive oil does not come from Ukraine or Russia; it is a domestic and national crop produced with the hard work of the Turkish producer.”
The association’s concerns were echoed by the chairman of the board of Turkey’s National Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK), Mustafa Tan, who dismissed the export prohibition of bulk olive oil as being harmful to the country’s olive oil sector.
“This temporary ban on the exports, which was enacted in the middle of the season, made most of the members of the olive sector together with the Aegean Exporters Association anxious,” Tan told Olive Oil Times.
“If we proceed with this ban, it can damage Turkey’s position in markets in which we are currently present with our olive oil, and it will also complicate things in possible new market entries,” he added.
Tan noted that Turkey produced around 235,000 tons of olive oil in the 2021/22 crop year, while 45,000 tons were stocked at the beginning of the season, and the country’s exports reached about 50,000 tons of olive oil.
“Considering the domestic consumption of around 150,000 tons, we can say that there is a surplus of nearly 80,000 tons of olive oil which should be exported,” he said. “It does not seem realistic to mitigate the possibility of a shortage of sunflower oil and other plant-based oil arising from the Russo-Ukrainian War with olive oil under current conditions as an alternative oil.”
“Therefore, members of the olive oil sector are requesting this temporary ban to be revoked immediately,” Tan added.
The governmental regulation delegating authority to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to institute export restrictions on agricultural commodities is valid until the end of 2022.