Namık Kemal PARLAK
Consumers across the world from New York to Istanbul queued at supermarkets in March to stock up on flour and pasta. The unprecedented increase in demand for flour and pasta comes amid widespread quarantines and stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic. The virus puts enormous strains on food supply chains.
As demand for the staple has surged, shortages of flour have been reported in stores across the world. In many countries, the issue is not being able to mill enough flour, but rather logistics and capacity to pack enough of it into bags for supermarkets.
In Turkey, the first confirmed coronavirus case was announced officially on March 11. Turkish consumers flocked to markets to buy pasta, pulses, flour and bulghur, especially in the second week of March.
People bought far beyond their needs and it was observed that market shelves remained empty for almost a week in the second week of March. However, sales returned to normal after one week.
The mills increased their capacity to meet rising domestic flour demand after the virus outbreak.
Eren Günhan Ulusoy, President of the Turkish Flour Industrialists' Federation said that the demand for flour increased three times in March. He stressed that even if it takes months to control the pandemic, the flour sector in Turkey will continue production without any problems.
Pasta sales also increased by 300 percent compared to the previous period. Abdulkadir Külahçıoglu, Chairman of Pasta Industrialists Association of Turkey, said that they delayed orders from abroad for three months to meet the increasing domestic demand after the pandemic.
Turkish pasta, flour and bulghur producers took a joint decision not to raise the prices for at least two months. The decision was taken at a meeting participated by pasta, flour and bulghur producers on March 31, chaired by Ahmet Güldal, General Manager of Turkish Grain Board (TMO).
In addition, TMO will not increase its sales price. “We will continue to meet the raw material demand of the sector at our January price. There will be no shortage of raw materials.” Mr. Güldal said.
He also added that they will increase wheat allocation for the flour industry from 499 thousand tons to 660 thousand tons. And the amount of durum wheat allocation will increase to 110 thousand tons.
Wheat harvest in Turkey will begin in nearly two months and Turkish officials expect some increase in wheat production compared to last year. Will the wheat stock meet the need until the harvest period? That is the most vital question…