ANKARA: The global impact of the coronavirus outbreak has dealt a blow to the Turkish economy, especially in the tourism, trade and marble sectors, despite the deadly and fast-spreading virus not even officially being confirmed as having been detected in the country so far.
Turkey has a trade volume of $21 billion with China, while transportation costs have risen significantly because of logistics blockages and production delays after the coronavirus epidemic.
Turkey has had to close border crossings with its eastern neighbor Iran, which has been hit hard by the outbreak, a move that undermined not only the bilateral trade that represents only 1.6 percent of Turkey’s foreign trade volume, but also the tourism sector, with almost 2 million Iranian visitors to Turkey annually.
On March 2, Turkey’s health minister also warned there may be infected individuals in the country, although there has been no official confirmation of any cases up to now.
The World Health Organization recently canceled a high-level and multinational consultation conference in Istanbul between March 10-12 as a precaution.
In the meantime, various Turkish companies active in the marble sector are facing the threat of bankruptcy. Up until the virus outbreak, Turkish exporters were selling about 5 million tons of marble blocks to China, making it the top importer.
An annual natural stone fair in China, due for March 16-19, has bee canceled, setting orders back months.
The sectoral loss is expected to amount to around $450 million this year, because China and Italy — another coronavirus afflicted country — were the biggest buyers of Turkish marble.