LONDON: A Turkish bakers’ union boss who said that bread is the staple food of “stupid societies” during a TV interview has been arrested.
Bread Producers Union leader Cihan Kolivar was a guest on Haberturk TV channel on Monday when he made the unusual remarks while discussing the rising cost of bread in the country.
“Bread is the basic food of stupid societies,” he said.
“I speak scientifically, not from memory. Per capita (in Turkiye) consumption is 210 kilograms; in Sweden, Norway and Japan, 50 kilograms. Because our society is saturated with bread, managers have been at it for 20 years.”
A video of the incident that went viral on Turkish Twitter shows the host condemning Kolivar’s comments.
“Wait a second. Everyone puts it on their table,” presenter Afsin Yurdakul replied.
Ekmek Üreticileri Sendikası Başkanı Cihan Kolivar: Ekmek aptal toplumların temel gıda maddesidir.
Habertürk Spikeri Afşin Yurdakul: Bir saniye. Herkes masasına koyuyor.
Kolivar: Ben bilimsel konuşuyorum.pic.twitter.com/lEM4kQ1sOG
— medyablok (@medyablok) November 7, 2022
Kolivar’s comments have triggered a heated online debate, with some users mocking him and others partially supporting the union chief’s thesis.
One user on Twitter commented on the episode saying: “Imagine the power of Turkiye if all Turks consumed 25 kilograms of meat a week.”
Imagine the power of Turkiye if all Turks consumed 25kg of meat a week.
— Wolf (@ArsCrypta) November 9, 2022
Although bread is a staple food around the world, it has a special significance across the Middle East.
In early 2000, Turkiye entered the Guinness World Records by becoming the country with the highest per capita consumption of bread in the world at 199.6 kilograms per person.
With Turks eating more than three times their own average body weight in bread annually, Kolivar’s comment might have represented an inexcusable affront for some people.
Ruling AK Party spokesperson Omer Celik also commented on the statement in a Twitter post, saying that “Kolivar’s words are hate speech. His statements on our nation and the bread are impudent.”
According to multiple sources, Kolivar was held in police custody on Tuesday, though he is soon expected to be released.
Media reported that Kolivar was detained on the charge of “insulting the Turkish nation, the state, institutions and organs of the state” because of his interview.
Turkiye is experiencing an economic crisis, which critics blame on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unconventional monetary policy based on low interest rates and high inflation.
Inflation in October climbed to a 24-year high of 85.5 percent, having surged last year as the lira slumped when the Central Bank began cutting rates on Erdogan’s advice.
Bread and other basic needs have been heavily afflicted by soaring inflation, with the price per loaf in Istanbul increasing by 150 percent in a year.