ECONOMY

Turkey happy with rice supply, sees more wheat

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey expects wheat output to increase by more than 10 percent this year and believes it has adequate supplies of rice, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker told a news conference yesterday. Turkish wheat output looks set to rebound after falling 13.9 percent last year to 17.2 million tons, hit by a combination of high temperatures and little rainfall. Barley production dropped 23.5 percent to 7.3 million tons over the same period. An official said barley production was expected to rise in line with the wheat production. The Union of Turkish Agricultural Chambers said earlier this month Turkey’s wheat production may fall by 30 percent in 2008 if drought persisted, but rainfall from October 1, 2007 to April 15, 2008 has been 7.6 percent above year-earlier levels. Eker said Turkey had no supply problem in rice and blamed a sharp jump in prices on speculators who hold on to stocks. World prices have soared in recent weeks as consuming countries scramble for supplies and major producers clamp down on exports. Eker said Turkey could immediately purchase 30,000 tons rice from Egypt at international prices. Turkey consumes between 500,000 and 550,000 tons of rice a year and despite drought produced around 400,000 tons of rice last year, Eker said. «We have a deficit of 100,000-150,000 tons (in rice production)… Now there is 120,000 tons of rice in Turkey and in addition it has 90,000 tons in the harbors and ports waiting. We have no problem with regard to supply,» he said. Some rice prices have risen by an average 58 percent to 3.60 lira ($2.70) per kilogram in Turkey recently, he said and called on consumers to choose other food products in the face of rising rice prices. Output of almost all Turkish agricultural products, including cotton, potatoes, corn and tobacco, fell in 2007 due to drought.