Istanbul’s ‘public bread’ factories boost production to meet rising demand
The affordable food
Published: Aug 04, 2022 05:58 PM
A bag of Simit, Turkish bagels Photo: VCG

A bag of Simit, Turkish bagels Photo: VCG

At a big bread factory in Istanbul, the production line runs at full steam as the machines knead the dough in huge pots, shaping it on a conveyer belt, and baked pieces of bread in the ovens.

"There is a huge increase in demand for public bread right now due to the soaring bread prices in the city," Harun Celebi, a shift supervisor at the Istanbul Halk Ekmek (IHE) Cebeci plant in the Sultangazi district, told Xinhua while checking the baking degree of pieces of bread in a giant oven.

IHE, or Istanbul Public Bread, a subsidiary of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, has been producing regular bread and baked products at affordable prices for the public since its founding in 1978.

The institution has recently taken a series of measures to meet the increasing demand of Istanbulites for affordable bread, increasing the efficiency of the lines of its three factories, and inaugurated a new plant to better cope with the growing demand.

IHE has managed to increase its daily production capacity from 1.5 to 1.8 million units of regular bread. With more than 3,000 sales points, the institution currently meets 12 percent of Istanbul's bread needs.

At the beginning of July, the price of a 210-gram loaf of regular bread produced by private bakeries in Istanbul rose from 3 to 4 liras ($0.22), marking the third hike since November 2021. 

IHE currently sells 250 grams of bread for 2 liras. The price of a regular loaf of IHE bread was 1.25 liras in February.

Okan Gedik, head of IHE, told Xinhua in a recent written interview that due to the recent hikes in bread prices in the city of over 16 million people, the demand for public bread has increased significantly.

"As a result of rising energy expenses, commodity prices, labor cost, and exchange rate effects, we are faced with a serious cost increase in every field in our country," he said.

"The geopolitical risks in the region, which is very important for global grain production, has made the situation even riskier," said Gedik, referring to the grain export from Ukraine amid the ongoing crisis.

"In particular, agricultural input costs showed an increasing course above all times," he pointed out.

To prevent these price hikes, IHE has been trying to make long-term, cost-fixing contracts with its suppliers as much as possible, according to Gedik.

"Additionally, we launched a direct purchasing program from our farmers to encourage wheat farming in the province of Istanbul," he remarked.

His institution is also focusing on internal processes and efficiency studies to create savings opportunities.

Turkey faced a 78.62 percent annual inflation in June, which has put a massive burden on people. The Turkish currency, the lira, lost 45 percent of its value against the US dollar in 2021 and another 25 percent in 2022.

Bread has become the most important food item for the low-income population in the country, as people frequently stage long queues to buy bread with affordable prices in front of IHE kiosks.