Few Turks would be surprised to see Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan giving simit to his top advisers and the journalists following him, or to read that a Russian oligarch is ordering fresh simit from Turkey. After all, simit – a Turkish bagel- is Turkey’s iconic street food.
Lately this indispensible snack has become a hotbed of controversy triggered by the decision of the Istanbul Union of Chambers of Artists and Artisans’ (ISTESOB) on a 40 percent hike in simit prices, irritating Turks. While some carry their anger to social media, others call on the government for price control and even the subsidizing of simit prices.
“You do not make a price hike during winter,” a tired street vendor with simit remaining on his tray during the late rainy hours told an AA correspondent. A worker on his way home asked for a simit, but ended up not buying one after being clearly disappointed by the price.
Meanwhile, social networks are buzzing with criticism targeting ISTESOB, the union which regulates the price. Some sarcastically wonder whether sesame is made of gold dust while others call for government intervention in forms of price control or subsidies.
The issue has been picked up by members of the Turkish cabinet. Lashing out at the price increase, Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock Mehdi Eker accused the unions of hiding behind increased sesame costs to justify the price hike.
“Although sesame prices increased only 6 kurus [Turkish cents], the union hiked the price of simit by 40 percent. The increase in sesame prices is nothing but an excuse for the price hike,” Eker complained. A deputy from the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Hursit Gunes voiced a similar criticism.
Resisting calls to retract the hike, ISTESOB Chairman Faik Yilmaz has defended the decision on the grounds that the price of sesame and flour have increased dramatically over the years while simit prices remained the same for the last three years. The Istanbul-based flour labor union has backed the decision on the same grounds.
However, confusion continues about the price as some vendors sell simit with the old price of 1 Turkish lira. Simit Sarayi, a simit shop chain which has 200 branches all over Turkey, announced on Monday that it will not increase prices until 2014. Likewise, chairman of the Turkish Baxter Federation Ibrahim Balci told AA that the price hike is limited to some wealthy Istanbul neighborhoods and noted, “in general, the price of simit is 1 Turkish lira.”
Still, the street vendor complains about the effects of the price on the demand by saying, “people who used to buy 3 to 4 simits now buy only 1 simit. This hike was not good.” Most Turks would agree.
Source World Bulletin