ISTANBUL, April 4 Turkish gold imports rose
17-fold to 28.2 tonnes in March, as Turks looking to hedge
currency risk ahead of a referendum in two weeks time followed
President Tayyip Erdogan's calls to buy gold instead of dollars.
After the sharpest falls in the Turkish lira since the 2008
financial crisis last November, Erdogan called on Turks to sell
dollars and buy lira or gold to prop up the local currency. Gold
imports have been rising year-on-year ever since.
"People have started opting for gold rather than foreign
currencies," said Mehmet Ali Yildirimturk, a gold specialist in
Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, adding that a moderate recovery in the
lira had also made gold more affordable again.
Gold imports to Turkey rose almost eightfold to 36.7 tonnes
in December after Erdogan's calls, their highest monthly level
in just over two years, according to data from the Precious
Mines and Metals Markets of the Istanbul bourse.
Prices in Turkey surged from 132 lira ($36) for 24-carat
gold in January to 153 lira in February. On Tuesday, gold prices
were around 148 liras.
Gold is seen as a safe place to park assets during times of
uncertainty. Turkey holds a referendum on April 16 on
constitutional changes which would significantly boost Erdogan's
powers, with polls suggesting a tight race.
($1 = 3.6664 liras)
(Reporting by Behiye Selin Taner; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu;
Editing by Nick Tattersall)