Turkish Association Warns of Future Food, Medicine Shortages
Kapitan Andreevo border crossing point between Turkey and Bulgaria, May 25, 2018 (Hristo Rusev/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Turkish Association Warns of Future Food, Medicine Shortages

The International Transporters Association says cargo trucks waiting for days on borders

Turkey is at risk of a food and medicine shortage in as little as five months due to disruptions of international supply chains and a stop in production amid the COVID-19 pandemic, International Transporters Association of Turkey (UND) told The Media Line.

UND’s CEO Alper Özel said the biggest problem was long waits for trucks at border crossings and border closures, including with key transit countries like Iran.

“Today, everything looks fine. All markets of food [are] full, there’s no problem. But if it’s still going on like that for five, six months then we can have a problem of food supply, of medicine supply because the supply chain is the problem,” Özel told The Media Line.

While goods are still being allowed through European countries though they block most foreign visitors from coming in, there are delays of delivery, Özel said, adding that Turkey is one of the biggest suppliers to Europe.

“Everywhere, we have long queues, long waiting times. Trucks are waiting more than one week,” he said. “We’re stuck in Central Asia.”

Özel stated that without people buying goods, the economy cannot run and production has stopped in factories and deliveries have been postponed.

“We’re afraid the supply chain can stop after awhile if countries take restrictive measures,” he said.

“[Production has] come slowly to a stop. … I don’t know how long we can find stuff in the warehouse. I don’t know how long we have.”

Forty percent of Turkey’s exports are done on the roads, according to Özel, stretching from Mongolia to Portugal.

Özel anticipated a shortage could happen in five to seven months. He said he did not know which products would be in short supply because he did not know the level of stocks at warehouses in Turkey.

Özel said that prices for shipping containers and logistical costs for trade with the US have gone up and are expected to go higher, but are at “acceptable” levels right now.

A global recession is widely expected due to COVID-19, which has infected more than 665,000 people around the world and killed about 31,000, according to data from John Hopkins University.

Scientists warn the level of infection is likely much higher than the confirmed cases.

Consumer spending is expected to plummet at home and abroad, hitting some of Turkey’s key industries, such as textiles and automobiles, which primarily export to European markets.

Turkey’s textiles and clothing sector accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP, according to government statistics.

The Istanbul Textile and Raw Materials Exporters Association stated Turkey is the seventh-largest exporter in the world for the sector, a Hürriyet article reported.

Tourism is another major sector of the economy that will likely see a major downfall in revenue.

The Reuters news agency reported 2.5 million Turkish citizens would lose out on work due to a delay in the start of the spring tourism sector, which accounts for 12% of the economy.

“Turkey will take a big hit,” said Can Selçuki, the managing director of Istanbul Economics Research and a former economist with the World Bank.

The Turkish economy is especially vulnerable after going through a currency meltdown in 2018 when US sanctions were imposed due to the detention of a US pastor.

“Turkey got caught up [at] the worst possible time,” Selçuki said.

Selçuki believed the top concern will be an increase in unemployment.

Unemployment stood at 13.7% by the end of last year in Turkey.

Lower oil prices could bring major relief for both industries and households who will save big in Turkey, which is largely dependent on imports for its energy.

Timothy Ash, a London-based economist with BlueBay Asset Management with a focus on Turkey, said the instability in the country means it has experience with crises.

On top of the 2018 currency meltdown, Turkey dealt with a bloody coup attempt in 2016 and a series of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016, which badly hit the tourism sector.

“In recent years, they have been through so much,” Ash told The Media Line. “They’re well used to supporting business and enterprise.”

However, he added the government’s response so far with a $15 billion plan to help the economy sustain the blow of the pandemic is relatively modest.

“Demand is going to collapse in Western Europe. … It’s going to have a very substantial impact on growth,” stated Ash.

“If Turkey escapes without a recession this year, that’s going to be a major result.”

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