Journalist author Ali Ekber Yıldırım, also an expert on agricultural issues said that the agricultural imports which started in Özal period have become a stick to discipline producers for product price.
While Turkey used to be known as a self-sustained country, today it has become a country that imports even onion, potato, meat, and straw. This issue is one of the hot topics discussed in both good markets and political arena. In the 18th National Agriculture and Food Congress of Agriculturist Association of Turkey in Ankara, many experts and stakeholders discussed from their own perspective the agriculture and food security.
We talked about the major problem of the agricultural sector with a congress participant Ali Ekber Yıldırım who has been writing essays on the agricultural sector in Dünya newspaper for several years. He said that ‘the producer cannot anymore produce in ease and earn money and take it seriously.’ He drew attention to the issue of agricultural imports.
Yıldırım stated that there was a protective agricultural policy before 1980 but after 1980 during the Özal period, the agriculture had unguardedly opened to foreign countries and the importation of banana and cheese had started.
‘The import has been started to be used as a stick on producers. There is an understanding that when the prices rise inside the country, then they are controlled with imports. This understanding has climaxed in the recent period” said Yıldırım. He added that ‘Whenever the price of any product increases a little bit, then it enters the import list. When the price of onion increased, then onion was imported. When the price of potato increased, then it was imported. Straw as well. The products that have not been imported until today, started to be imported.”
‘THE IMPORTS PUSHE FARMERS OUT OF BUSINESS’
Yıldırım pointed to the imports to reduce price and explained the cycle: “Every import you make pushes a part of farmers who are not able to compete out of business. Thus as farmers cannot produce, the amount of production decreases. When production decreases, prices rise. When prices rise, imports rise even further. This cycle should be broken. The last example of this is animal husbandry. When you import, prices decrease for a short time but in the long term price and social cost rises.’
Ali Ekber Yıldırım indicated that one of the factors affecting the agricultural policies in Turkey is the agricultural reform projects that were put into action in cooperation with the IMF and the World Bank after 1999-2000. “In the letter of intention, there were appeasements” said Yıldırım. In addition, he argued:
“The IMF’s letter of intent has started to even mention things such as the price of wheat, tobacco. This indicates that agricultural policies are shaped by these institutions. Today too both multinational companies and institutions like the IMF and the World Bank have impacts on agriculture in Turkey’.
‘SEED GROWING DEMOLISHES BIO DIVERSITY’
Yıldırım emphasized that companies that produce and sell seed have demolished bio diversity on earth. Yıldırım said that “The seeds that are sold to farmers are infertile. Farmers at every turn have to buy these patented seeds. Farmers are lead into standardized product and production. In market, everywhere, there is monotype product, monotype fruit, monotype vegetable.’
Yıldırım talked about the allegations the amount of seed has increased in Turkey. He said that “Big companies abroad already do this through establishing local companies in Turkey. There are also companies in Turkey that sell seed in 5 continents, such as Yüksel Seed in Antalya. We know that companies abroad try to buy and threaten this company”. In this way, he argues the situations in the market get even more severe.
‘IF THERE WERE NO SYRIANS THERE WOULD BE NO ONE TO COLLECT PRODUCTS’
In addition, Ali Ekber Yıldırım said that he is operating a project to support crop production in the Syrian Refugee Camp in Osmaniye within the scope of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Technical Cooperation Program but that there will be Syrians in agriculture in Turkey in the future is an exaggerated claim. Yıldırım conveyed his observations about İzmir and Antalya as follows:
“Antalya is a touristic region. Syrians are prohibited from even entering the touristic region. However, today in most of the greenhouses Syrians are working as workers and pickers. In Izmir too, there is no one to collect products, if there were no Syrians. In rural areas, people live on with social support, there is no one to work in the fields and harvest the product. In this sense, Syrians are the most abused people. We can say the same for the Afghans and the Moldavians in the animal breeding sector. There is a group of people who are coming from many different countries and working in the fields and the animal breed sector in Turkey.
THE FAO DELEGATE: ONE TRILLION DOLLARS ARE LOST
Assistant FAO Representative for Turkey, Dr. Ayşegül Selışık said that around the world one billion and three hundred million tons of food, that is, one third of the produced products, is to be lost and wasted. She stated that the cost of food loss and waste is one trillion dollars. She said that “The loss in harvest and storing means revenue loss for small farmers and higher prices for consumers with low income.”
Selışık said that, while waste is 95-115 kilogram per person in Europe and North America, it is 6-11 kilogram per person in a year in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and southeastern Asia. She stated that, while in developing countries 40% of loss occurs in the level of ‘harvest’ and ‘processing’, in developed countries 40% of loss occurs in the level of ‘retail’ and ‘consumer’.
She also drew attention to the environmental impact of food loss and waste. She said that “Around the world, 1.4 billion hectares are used for producing food that will be waste and never reach tables.” She underlined that 1.4 billion hectares are larger than the surface of China. She underlined that lost food and waste causes 8% of greenhouse gas emission, which is one of the main reasons of global warming and climate change.
She stated that in Turkey most loss and waste is seen in vegetables and fruits. She said that “Because food loss and waste is a global issue, it necessitates regional and global effort.” Finally, she stated that especially in developing countries the food supply chain must be strengthened and investment in substructure, transportation, food industry, packing industry must be made.
Translation: İrem Aki