Beer culture in Turkey may become history on price hike plans - official

Turkey’s government may be planning a massive increase to the price of beer at the start of July, a move that could confine the drink’s popularity to history, a senior sector official said.

The Islamist-leaning government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has raised taxes on alcohol and cigarettes at a pace far exceeding consumer price inflation since it came to power in 2002.

Turkey’s main opposition party accuses Erdoğan of imposing his Islamic values on the country through steps such as tax hikes. Erdoğan, banned from public office in the 1990s for mixing religion with politics, is a vocal opponent of drinking and smoking.

“There’s talk of an increase of between 17 percent and 23 percent,” Özgür Aybaş, the head of an association representing alcoholic beverage retailers, said on Twitter on Tuesday. “I hope this will not happen, otherwise beer culture will be history.”

The price of the cheapest half-litre bottle of beer in Turkey stood at 13 liras ($1.5) at the start of the year. The net minimum wage for single people is 2,826 liras, equivalent to the price of about six bottles of beer per day.

Turkey’s government implements tax hikes on alcohol twice annually in line with the producer price inflation index. It increased the charges by 17.1 percent in early January. Producer price inflation accelerated to an annual 38.3 percent in May from 35.7 percent in April.

In late April, Erdoğan’s government banned the sale of alcohol during a tight lockdown of the population after cases of COVID-19 spiked to a record. Government officials said they were following best practices in European countries, which have not imposed blanket bans.

Cigarette prices may also be increased by 2-3 liras, Aybaş said. Hikes to the cost of other alcoholic beverages are also planned, he said.

The government is planning to tighten regulation of alcohol sales licenses and police approval will be sought for new ones, local media reported in May.