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Cablegate: Impact of Rising Food/Commodity Prices - Turkey

VZCZCXRO2126
RR RUEHDA
DE RUEHAK #0834/01 1211410
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301410Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6139
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 4174
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 2894

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000834

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EEB/TPP/ABT/ATP - JSPECK
TREASURY FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - JROSE
USDA/FAS/OGA/CHAUDRY, SCHWARTZ
USDA/FAS/OCRA/ADAMS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR EAID ETRD ECON PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: IMPACT OF RISING FOOD/COMMODITY PRICES - TURKEY

Ref: A) STATE 39410, B) ANKARA 184, C) 07 ANKARA 3046,

D) 07 ANKARA 1996, E) FAS Reports (see para 11)

1. This report was coordinated with FAS Ankara.

2. SUMMARY: Turkey has the highest per capita wheat consumption in
the world, and in a normal year is not only self-sufficient but
exports wheat flour to neighboring countries. Severe drought in
2007 slashed Turkish crop yields, and commodity prices in Turkey
began to rise by mid-summer 2007. Price increases have continued,
attracting more attention when international media began to cover
global food price concerns. The government first moved to control
prices in the fall of 2007 by increasing grain import quotas and
cutting duties on grain and oilseeds, although with limited success.
Commodity analysts and many consumers are convinced that official
statistics understate both production shortfalls and price
increases. END SUMMARY

DEMAND
------

3. Turkey has the highest per capita wheat consumption in the world,
and in a normal year is not only self-sufficient but exports wheat
flour to neighboring countries. Rising incomes are slowly
increasing demand for livestock products, and the government is
trying to increase the efficiency of the sector, especially dairy.
One benefit of this has been the re-opening of the market for
imports of U.S. breeding cattle, after which Turkey immediately
became the largest market for U.S. breeding cattle outside of North
America.

SUPPLY
------

4. The worst drought in decades severely damaged the 2007 grain and
oilseed crops across most of Anatolia, and also sharply reduced
output of horticultural products. Post forecasts that stocks of
grain and oilseeds at the end of the 2007/08 crop year will be as
much as 75 percent below normal.

5. Both food and feed grain prices began to rise in mid-summer 2007
as the extent of the drought became clear. At first the GOT tried
to control bread price increases in major cities, but flour, pasta
and bulgur prices continued to rise. By February 2008, the price of
milling wheat at the Polatli Commodity Exchange was 25 percent
higher than a year earlier. As the price of bulgur and pasta
increased, consumers began to switch to rice, which had not been
affected by drought. Because of this increase in demand, the price
of rice quickly increased as much as other products. Although per
capita consumption of wheat is about 25 times higher than that of
rice, rice price increases have received more attention in the
media, perhaps because of stories in the international press. The
drought also reduced domestic sunflower seed production and doubled
local prices for vegetable oil.

GOVERNMENT POLICY RESPONSE
--------------------------

6. The GOT was aware of the impact of the drought as soon as the
wheat harvest began in June 2007. Grain imports are government
controlled through the Turkish State Grain Board (TMO). In July
2007, TMO officials approached post's FAS office inquiring if USDA
credit guarantees would be available for up to 2 million metric tons
of wheat imports, their estimate of the production shortfall. A
week later, the Minister of Agriculture was quoted as saying the
production shortfall was only 500,000 tons. Unfortunately for TMO,
it took until October for Parliament to grant authority to import
wheat, and by then world prices had doubled from their July levels.
Furthermore, the initial wheat import quota was only 800,000 tons,
which flour millers recognized as inadequate. TMO also was
authorized to import 300,000 tons of corn for feed. Additional
authorizations have continued. The most recent announcement on
April 8 gave TMO permission to import up to 700,000 MT of wheat with
zero duty until May 31, 2009.

7. In September 2007, because of reduced sunflower seed production,
GOT reduced import duties for most vegetable oils. In October, the
GOT allowed duty free imports of sunflower seed for crushing.
Although the 2007 rice harvest was normal, and ironically the GOT
was defending its protectionist rice import policies in the WTO, in
April 2008, TMO was given a duty free import quota for 100,000 MT of
rice for use until May 31, 2009.

POLITICAL IMPACT

ANKARA 00000834 002 OF 002


----------------

8. In recent weeks, opposition parties in Parliament have demanded
formation of a committee to investigate why wheat, rice and other
grain prices have risen so sharply in Turkey. Shortcomings in
domestic agricultural policies have been the focus of the
complaints, rather than drought or the international situation. The
ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Government has
acknowledged the effects of rising food and energy prices on the
economy. While official statistics state that food prices rose
16.28 percent from March 2007 to March 2008, commodity analysts and
many consumers are convinced that official statistics understate
both production shortfalls and price increase.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
--------------------

9. While rising food prices have not yet had an effect on
environmental issues such as deforestation, water availability and
quality, and soil conservation, 2007's drought has had a significant
impact on water availability and quality and required increased
irrigation that was reported in refs B - D. This, in turn,
contributed to the rise in food prices in Turkey. So far this crop
year, rainfall in Central Anatolia's wheat belt has been close to
normal, but the size of the crop will depend on the May rains. In
contrast, Southeastern Anatolia, which suffered less damage last
year, is suffering a severe drought: rainfall since last autumn is
only half of normal. Although the Southeast is not as important a
wheat production area as Central Anatolia, it is an important
producer of pulses, such as lentils, that are a staple food.

ECONOMIC IMPACT
---------------

10. On April 29, Turkey's Treasury Minister, Mehmet Simsek, stated
that the GOT expects its current account deficit to reach $50
billion in 2008 due in part to the global rise in commodity prices,
including food prices. Simsek also forecasted continued high-level
inflation because of the same conditions, and the Turkish Central
Bank revised its expected inflation rate for food prices to 13% by
the end of 2008. Turkey is import dependent for industrial
production and final consumption. Turkish Foreign Trade
Undersecretariat data shows that unprocessed and processed food
imports for industrial usage increased 156% for the first two months
of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007. Imports of these
products for final consumption increased by 79% for the same period.
U.S. exports have benefitted from Turkey's increased import demand.
Exports of U.S. grains, feedstuffs, and vegetable oil in 2007 were
valued at $265 million, three times the 2006 level. Current
statistics are not available to indicate how many poor households
would be impoverished by food price rises. 2006 statistics
calculated the poverty rate at 17.8% and indicated that 539,000 of
Turkey's 70.6 million people lived at the subsistence level when
looking at their food expenditures.

11. For more information on crops and prices, the following relevant
FAS reports are available at http://www.fas.usda.gov/scriptsw/
attacherep/default.asp).

TU7045, Turkey Inquires About Major Wheat Purchase 7/20/07
TU7050, Grain Update 8/9/07
TU7051, Sunflower Seed and Products Update 8/16/07
TU7056, Sunflower Seed and Vegetable Oil Duty reductions 9/25/07
TU7066 Sharp Reduction in Grain Import Duties 11/28/07
TU7068 Corn Crop update 11/30/07
TU8001, Impact of High Global Commodity Prices in Turkey and Central
Asia 1/11/08
TU8002 TMO Tender January 22 1/14/08
TU8003 Soybean and products update 1/31/08
TU8008 Import Duty Reduction on Some Grains, 2/26/08
TU8010 Oilseeds and Products Annual 3/17/08
TU8011 TMO Tender Results 3/21/08
TU8013 Duty reductions for Grains, Oilseeds, and Oils, 4/8/08

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