Queues form for cheap meat in front of Turkey’s state-run stores ahead of Ramadan 

People formed long queues in front of Turkey’s state-run “Meat and Milk Board” stores to buy cheaper meat compared to butchers and supermarkets ahead of Ramadan. Buyers lined up hours before opening to buy ground and diced meat packages before the stock ran out. 

Duvar English

People looking to buy cheap meat products on Feb. 27 lined up in long queues in front of Turkey’s state enterprise “Meat and Milk Board (ESK)” stores ahead of the Ramadan month. The firm sells meat at almost half the supermarket and butcher prices in its stores across the country.

There is only one ESK store in the central Yozgat province and the year-round queues increase around Ramadan, as people seek to stock up on meat products ahead of a month of iftar (fast-breaking) meals, according to reporting from ANKA News Agency.

Citizens started lining up hours before the 9.30 a.m. opening of the store to make it before the daily stock ran out. They believed that increasing the number of stores in the province would reduce the queues. 

The Yozgat store sells around 1.5 tons of meat every day. One kilo of ground meat is sold for 229 Turkish liras (7.3 dollars) at the stores, whereas the same product is found at butcher shops for double the price, at 430 liras (13.8 dollars). 

One of the buyers, Hüseyin Selbes, began waiting in line at 7.30 in the morning in front of the Yozgat store to buy a package of ground meat. He estimated there were around 600 people lined up with him. 

“We will be able to buy some meat if our turn comes, God willing,” he said. He was in line to buy ground meat in preparation for the coming Ramazan month.

Pensioner Ertuğrul Cankurtaran had been in line since 7.20 a.m. and hoped he would be able to buy some meat before the store ran out. “We are retired people, what else could we do?” he asked. 

The situation was similar in other branches of the ESK, like the Diyarbakır store in the city center in southeastern Turkey. Employees reported that the store experienced busyness ahead of Ramazan. They sold around four tons of meat to 1,000 people in a day.

Hundreds wait in line at the Meat and Milk Board's Diyarbakır store. (Amida News)

A person who has been waiting in line since early morning told Amida News that it was difficult living on a retirement salary. “I have been shopping here for the last five years, I have no other option,” he admitted. 

The customer added, “People are in line come rain or shine. I hope the country will return to normalcy because I don’t know how long this can go on.” 

The head of the Butchers’ Chamber of Diyarbakır, Hacı Atlı, stated that price hikes to meat products have become regular before each Ramadan. “However, the increase has never been this severe,” he held.  

He believed the root cause of the price increases was low production and the prices of transportation and feeds. Atlı added that the government should prioritize supporting local farmers instead of exporting livestock. “Prices will only go up if urgent measures are not taken,” warned the chair. 

ESK's former head Osman Uzun was dismissed in 2022 following controversial remarks about their 48 percent price increase. Uzun had defended the increase, saying “[Cheap meat] was creating long queues. That’s why we increased the prices,” to citizens' criticism. 

A 2022 survey conducted by MetroPoll Research Company found that 61.8 percent of participants fully stopped eating meat to “get by” in the face of deteriorating economic conditions. 

Some 69 percent of the Turkish population said they could not set a rich iftar table, and 59 percent said they could not invite guests during the Eid holiday due to economic reasons, according to a 2023 survey conducted by Ipsos Research.