Economic woes, bird flu keep people’s plates meatless during Ramadan, Turkey’s Urfa residents complain

“Maybe chickens cannot fly, but the prices certainly do,” a local resident in Turkey's southeastern Urfa province complained about the ongoing food price spikes.

Fatma Keber / Gazete Duvar

Amid unprecedented inflation, economic challenges, and concerns over avian flu, residents of the meat-loving province of Urfa in southeastern Turkey are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain affordable meat during the holy month of Ramadan.

“As of today, the price of chicken wings has increased from 110 lira to 160 lira. The price a week before Ramadan was around 110 lira,” İlyas Dal, a manager at the Gross Market told Duvar. “Serious increases in chicken prices are already expected in March and April.”

Gross Market's manager İlyas Dal complains of the rapid increase in meat prices.

Turkey’s significant inflationary pressures have not left food prices cold. Official statistics showed that food inflation stood at approximately 71.1% in February 2024.

However, some experts argue that the actual food price surges may be even higher, with increases anticipated following the March 31 local elections.

These price spikes have made meat a luxury for many, with official data indicating that 39.2% of Turkey’s population could not afford a meal containing meat every other day.

“Maybe chickens cannot fly, but the prices certainly do,” remarked İsmail Şahin Yakup, a customer at Dal’s shop. “We cannot buy a whole chicken like we used to during Ramadan,” Yakup lamented, noting that they now opted for soup instead. However, those prices also continue to rise.

“We buy soup and try to find meat on the bone like an archaeologist in Göbeklitepe,” Yakup said, referring to the oldest known temple complex in human history, located approximately 20 kilometers from Urfa’s city center.

Adding insult to injury, according to store manager Dal, were the ongoing avian flu outbreaks worldwide which have disrupted Turkey’s chicken imports.

“There is no product. The poultry farmers attribute the lack of product to the bird flu cases occurring in poultry farms in Brazil,” Dal explained.

Most recently, Turkey imposed an embargo on poultry products from Belgium following a bird flu outbreak.

Despite being the world’s second-largest producer of poultry meat, Turkey has managed to largely avoid bird flu outbreaks, remaining bird flu-free since an outbreak in Afyon and Denizli in March 2023.

These meatless days are taking a toll on Yakup’s family life as he worries about affording meat for family outdoor picnics.

“Picnic season is approaching. Children will want to have a picnic. The prices are already making us think. Why are these prices increasing all of a sudden?”

(English version by Wouter Massink)