8 Nisan 2011 Cuma

Turkey could be 'Europe's winter garden,' FAO report says

Gökhan Kurtaran
Efforts to resuscitate agricultural life in Turkey have resulted in a “real success story,” a United Nations report evaluating improvements in agriculture and food safety around the world has said.

“With its rich natural resources and vast cultivable lands, Turkey has great potential to increase its agricultural exports,” the report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said, adding that this potential includes the opportunity to provide out-of-season produce in winter to EU markets.

The recently released report focuses on countries regarded as successful examples in agricultural production and food safety, including Algeria, Armenia, Brazil, Nigeria, Turkey and Vietnam.

“Turkey has succeeded significantly in increasing its agricultural exports and Algeria has also boosted cereals production significantly. In both countries, success was due to government policies to promote international trade, as well as sustained efforts to promote the agriculture sector as a pillar for future development of the economy,” the report said.

According to the report, even though agricultural growth on the whole has been slow in Turkey, the real value of its agricultural exports has increased significantly, “thanks to the economic reforms that liberalized markets and promoted trade.”

More than $5 billion in credits for farmers 

Turkey had budget deficits in the 1990s and debt levels reached such heights that the country’s macroeconomic stability was severely undermined, the report said, adding that the Turkish government launched important reforms in the 2000s in order to overcome the economic difficulties, focusing on privatization, banking and the public sector. An important part of these reforms was a politically demanding and thorough realignment of agricultural-support policies, aimed at making supports more efficient and reducing costs.

After weathering the financial crisis in 2000-2002, the strict monetary and fiscal policies began to pay off, the report said. They supported significant economic recovery and greatly enhanced Turkey’s economic prospects.

“Since 2002, Turkey’s economic progress has been impressive, with GDP growth at a 6.3 average per year,” the report said. “The growth rate peaked at 9 percent in 2004 and has tapered off since, as the effects of the global recession have taken hold.”

The FAO’s report underscores that one major reason for the stimulus has been a sizable reduction in interest rates for agricultural credit. Standing at 59 percent in 2002, these rates have now decreased to 17.5 percent. “This has resulted in a 16-fold increase in their usage; $5.64 billion was provided for 957,000 farmers in 2008,” the report said.

Agriculture sector posts growth despite crisis

According to the report, Turkey’s agricultural-exports sector has been “a pillar for national development.”
“Agricultural value added around 10 percent of GDP throughout the period and growth in the value of agricultural exports in current U.S. dollars averaged 4.7 percent per year between 1999-2001 and 2005-2007,” the report said.

In its report, the FAO underscored the success of the recent performance of the economy as the global crisis shook up European countries. “Even amid challenges brought about by the global recession, the agriculture sector grew at 4.3 percent in the first six months of 2009 and at 6.7 percent in the second half,” it said.

The report also said that Turkey has great potential to increase its agricultural exports. “The reorientation of its support policies has removed trade distortions and opened up markets, with the result that the value of agriculture exports now stands at $11.4 billion as opposed to $4 billion in 2002, an increase of 185 percent,” it said.

According to the report, Turkey is positioning itself to become the “fruit basket of Europe,” exporting fruits and nuts to its western neighbors in both fresh and processed forms. The value of the country’s agricultural exports is growing by nearly 5 percent per year, with more than 1,000 agricultural products figuring on the list.
European retailers also see potential for Turkey to become “Europe’s winter garden,” providing out-of-season produce such as citrus fruits, cherries, grapes and tomatoes to EU markets. Hazelnuts, dried figs, apricots, lentils and chickpeas also figure prominently on the list of Turkey’s unprocessed food exports.

The report also points out that the current government has offered interest-free loans and 50 percent subsidies to support irrigation investments, so as to provide efficient water usage and environmental protection.
The FAO report notes that the government plans to recruit 10,000 agricultural consultants to provide free advice to farmers in more than 30,000 villages. According to the report, “so far 2,500 have been appointed.”

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