Cyprus Mail

North butchers introduce ‘service fee’ to sidestep price controls


Butchers in the north have introduced a “service fee” for their customers to sidestep price controls introduced by the ‘government’ for the retail price of lamb.

The north’s ‘government’ had on Wednesday decreed that lamb meat can be sold for no more than 500TL (€15.89) per kilogram, with fines payable for offenders, but the implementation of a service fee is a clear indication that butchers have no intention of cutting their income.

Eyewitnesses on Saturday said service fees typically ranged between 10 and 15 per cent of the retail price of the meat.

Opposition political party CTP leader Tufan Erhurman on Saturday described price controls as a “risky legal instrument”.

He said limits should have only been set after “all factors have been thoroughly reviewed by all parties involved and it has been assured that everyone will comply.”

By contrast, he said, the current situation “has shaken consumers’ trust not only in the relevant parties but also in the state’s authority.”

He added, “the result of this will be nothing but an acceleration of the southward shift of the economy in a country under normal circumstances like ours. Meanwhile, inequality increases even more, especially for those who don’t have the chance to move to the south.”

He also likened the ‘government’s’ actions to “trying to pluck one’s eyebrows and taking out one’s eyes instead.”

Erhurman’s mention of a “southward shift” in the north’s economy is particularly pertinent on the matter of meat, with an increasing number of Turkish Cypriots having resorted to buying their meat in the Republic, where it is habitually cheaper.

At the same time, on an increasing number of occasions, meat is also being smuggled to the north illegally from the Republic.

In March, Turkish Cypriot police found and seized almost two metric tonnes of beef from supermarkets in the Kyrenia district.

Two weeks prior, a man had received a fine for attempting to cross north at the Ayios Dhometios crossing point with 143 kilograms of red meat, while a similar sting at the Pergamos crossing point and the nearby village of Lysi uncovered 140kg of beef smuggled from the Republic.

Turkish Cypriot butchers have found themselves squeezed by their rising costs and shrinking consumer base, and slaughtered two lambs in protest at the situation in January.

They demanded the north’s ‘government’ “find a solution” which would allow meat to be sold at a price range in line with the prices in the Republic.

We are throwing away meat we cannot sell because it stinks, and as a result animal slaughter has hit rock bottom,” they said. While the crisis is worsening, “the government is acting as if everything is rosy.”

While the north’s ‘government’ has now taken action to attempt to reduce the retail price of meat, the introduction of “service fees” are a very clear indication that the solution found is not what the butchers were looking for.

This is not the first time the north’s ‘government’ has attempted to implement price controls, with a decree on the maximum price of bread having been published at the beginning of February.

However, they were met with collective resistance on the part of the bakers, who declared the decree to be in violation of the north’s laws on competition.

“Under the conditions of the bread and bakery competition law, each bakery has calculated its own costs and offered our products to people at affordable prices so far,” they said.

“In this regard, we have determined each bakery’s own costs separately, taking into account the recent excessive price increases, under free market conditions,” they added.

CTP ‘MP’ Devrim Barcin had said at the time it was “utterly delusional to expect compliance.”

Bakers demanded a meeting with ‘prime minister’ Unal Ustel, and the potential conflict was averted the following day when an agreement between them and the ‘economy ministry’ was reached.

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