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Bulgarian buyers find bargains in Turkey as the pound struggles

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Bulgarian buyers find bargains in Turkey as the pound struggles

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Bulgarian shoppers cross Turkey’s western border in crowded cars and buses, taking advantage of the weaker Turkish lira to fuel their own shopping sprees

EDIRNE, Turkey – Bulgarian shoppers cross Turkey’s western border in crowded cars and buses, using the weaker Turkish lira to fuel their own shopping sprees.

Their first stop is the bureau de change, then they head to the markets and grocery stores in the town of Edirne in northwestern Turkey.

On Christmas Eve, the city’s Turkish market was packed with Bulgarian shoppers. Hatice Ahmedova said she left at 3 a.m. to board a bus that would take her across the border to Edirne, exchanged 200 Bulgarian levs for 1,150 Turkish lira and started shopping.

Gulfiye Osinova, 60, was also there to find gifts for her children and grandchildren, saying Bulgaria was much more expensive.

Turkey is in the throes of an economic crisis with official inflation figures above 21%, affecting the prices of food, fuel and household items. But for Bulgarian shoppers, grocery stores are a bargain and they leave the country with their trunks full.

The pound experienced its most volatile month in December, dropping almost daily and finally hitting an all-time low of 18.36 against the US dollar on December 20, when the Turkish currency lost more than 60% of its value. against the dollar this year. . Tourists took advantage of this decline in the currency.

The pound has since rebounded after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced new financial tools to protect pound deposits from currency fluctuations, and closed the week at 10.83 against the dollar.

Bulent Reisoglu, chairman of the Ulus Bazaar Cooperative in Edirne, said the number of foreigners has quadrupled in recent weeks.

“The parking lots are full of Bulgarian cars, it has become almost impossible to see Edirne or Istanbul license plates,” he said. “(They) shop like they’re crazy, not knowing what they’re buying and buy five or ten of the same thing with the logic of selling it or thinking they won’t find them again.

Buyers were also coming from neighboring Greece, converting euros into liras. A customer, Esra Molla, said she was happy to buy gifts for herself and her family.

Despite the pound’s rally last week, the Turkish national currency has still lost nearly 40% of its value this year, sparked by Erdogan’s insistence on lowering interest rates, which currently stand at 14 %. Established economic theory says that high inflation can be reduced by raising interest rates, but Erdogan argues otherwise. Under his new economic agenda, Erdogan wants cheap credit, high exports and high growth.

As Turks wait in long queues in the cold for bread this month, their declining purchasing power amid price hikes has been painfully visible. Erdogan has urged Turkish companies to lower their prices as the pound stabilizes, but there is no indication yet that they will replace the hordes of Bulgarian buyers in Edirne anytime soon.

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Zeynep Bilginsoy and Robert Badendieck contributed from Istanbul.

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