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Published On: Thu, Mar 27th, 2014

How agriculture feed 75m Turks and 32m others – Envoy

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Mr Mustafa PulatBy Charles Onunaiju

According to the ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Nigeria, Mr Mustafa Pulat, Agriculture in Turkey is a strategic, competitive and multidimensional sector than a mere social and livelihood sector. In a wide ranging exclusive interview, the Turkish envoy said that his country’s agricultural strategy paper between 2006 and 2010, set the main aims of agriculture as constituting a sector that is sustainable, highly competitive and organised by taking into account, economic, social, environmental and international development dimensions within the principle of the utilization of available resources effectively.

Furthermore, he added that an agriculture law which was adopted in 2006 determines and regulates the policies for agriculture and rural development in line with the national development plans and strategies. The law also defines the aims, scope and subjects of agricultural policies, the instruments of agriculture and rural development, support the financing and structure and the legal and administrative arrangement for the main research and development programmes to be implemented in the agriculture sector.

Having put in place, the legal and administrative structure upon which Turkish agriculture is organised, the result has been astounding as it is pace setting both within the region and beyond. In terms of size, the economic size of Turkish agriculture with respect to world’s agricultural economic was 11th in 2002 but has risen to the 7th place in 2009. When compared to European agriculture, Turkish agricultural economy has from the fourth rank to the first within the same period. More importantly, according to ambassador Pulat, Turkish agriculture is adequately providing food for 75 million Turks and other additional 32 million tourists, and has contributed 62.5 billion US dollars to national income in 2012, up from 23.7 billion US dollars in 2002. This is an increase of 2.6 fold between the years of 2002 and 2012.

Underscoring the tremendous expansion of Turkish agriculture, the envoy noted that the export of agricultural products has increased from 4 billion US dollars in 2002 to 14 billion US dollars in 2012 and within the same period, Turkey’s foreign trade on food products resulted in 4.6 billion US dollars surplus. And given the diversified structure of Turkish agriculture, the country successfully exports more than one thousand type of agricultural products to over 150 countries and this accounts for over 16 billion US dollars. Turkey, which has achieved a considerable mileage in the overall strength of her national economy is among the top five with 30 products in the world agricultural production, and its 20 products ranks the same in export. In fact, a strategy paper produced by the Turkish ministry of food, agriculture and livestock called the agricultural sector, the “buffer” and the “locomotive” sector of the Turkish economy.

The outstanding example of Turkey’s highly successful agricultural sector could be better appreciated against the background of the country’s initial challenges to create enabling stable political atmosphere germane to sustainable development.

From the uncomplimentary epithet of the “sick man of Europe” Turkey has become a poster child of political and economic transformation not only in Europe but in her geo-strategic location. Straddling Europe and west Asia, otherwise known as the Middle East, after years of political instability, Turkey has emerged with stable and obviously predictable and reliable political institutions, with credible electoral process. Having found its political life firmly rooted in democratic institutions and processes, the Turkish Republic founded in 1923 by the great Kamel Mustapha Ataturk, has chalked up considerable success in economic reconstruction and reforms.

As a key driver of the group of eight countries mostly middle income countries otherwise known as the D8, which comprises Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Turkey play a crucial role in expanding trade among the member countries.

At a meeting of the D8 agricultural ministers late last year which opened new vistas in the sector for co-operation, the Turkish deputy minister of food, agriculture and livestock, Mr. Kutbettin Arzu, said that the transformation going on, in the agricultural sector is not isolated, but an integral part of his country’s radical transformation in all aspects of its economic, social and political life.

Turkey has been experiencing transformation particularly in infrastructure, mass housing, accommodation, transport, health and education.

In the specific instance of agricultural transformation, research and development has been the key driver that has unlocked the country’s potentials and set her on course of massive regeneration.

The transformation in the sector has led to the integration of rural or peasant farming to national farm and agricultural policy leading to astounding results in output, which have not only made Turkey self-reliant in food production but a net exporter of food products.

To underscore the critical role of research and development and the high premium placed on scientific research in “agriculture, the Turkish ministry of agriculture has 48 research institutes affiliated to it, and also collaborations. The deputy agriculture minister further stated that his country attends collaboration to other countries on request and specifically mentioned that Turkey is in working collaboration with Sudan. He added that during the D8 meeting, he has held discussion with the Nigeria’s minister of agriculture, Mr Adesina Adewummi, who has expressed interest to collaborate with Turkey.

Mr. Arzu said that his ministry is willing to provide their advanced seeds and other highly developed agricultural inputs. Given the advanced stage of Turkey’s agriculture, the sector contributes to 8% to Turkey’s huge gross domestic product (GDP), which stands an impressive 800 billion U.S dollars. With diversified agricultural production, Turkey exports more than a thousand varieties of products to the international market and Turkey’s agriculture sector now ranks number one in Europe. The range of products, Turkey exports to the world and especially Europe, includes milk.

The strategy to boost the agricultural sector which has become a net earner of foreign exchange is the integration of rural agriculture with commercial agric-business. The Turkish ministry of agriculture ensures the transfer of better quality of seeds, live stocks and plants to the rural areas. There are also considerable incentives to encourage the business community to invest in agriculture. To further boost agricultural production, one percent (1 %) of the Gross National Products is reserved to subsidize the sector. Unlike the freewheeling free market pushed in several developing countries, where subsidies are considered a distortion of the market, Turkey ensures a state-funds for her crucial agricultural sector and that seemed to have ensured a steady growth of the sector. In addition to official subsidy of the sector, which included payment and other welfare packages to farmers, Turkey, maintains a food product office, an equivalent of the Nigeria’s defunct marketing board. The Turkey’s food office, according to the deputy minister ensures that the vagaries of market forces do not disorient Turkish

Agriculture. The food office ensures that products are bought at market prices. With arrangement of this sort, Turkey has increased the production of key food items like milk to reach 18 million tons in premium payment to farmers.

The imperative to boast agricultural production is more urgent against a scenario where over 10 million babies are dying of malnutrition and over 850 million people are living in hunger world wide.. Mr. Arzu decried such situation and suggests that increased food production can reverse the trend.

He called for cooperation among the members of D8 and expresses the readiness of his country to share the experience of its successful agricultural sector with others.

Ambassador Pulat said that in spite of the success, so far recorded in Turkey’s agricultural sector, there are still rooms for massive improvement and added that his country would continue to place a high premium on research and development.

It is interesting to note that Turkey as one of the countries that is firmly wedded to liberal democracy and its economic corollary of free market, operate the system in such flexible manner as to accommodate farm subsidies and marketing boards, long considered a taboo in western-inspired economic reforms in Africa.

Unfortunately, Africa and more especially in Nigeria, farmers have been condemned to their own fate, with no subsidies long gone and marketing boards also abolished. Under the World Bank and IMF supervised reforms in Africa, farmers are on their own.

Crushed by massive imports which crowds them out of the market space and dammed by poor seedlings and other farm inputs, farming in African is essentially subsistence and peasant based. Under that condition, Africa’s agricultural potentials have remained underdeveloped, with the result that Africa massively imports what she eats, even with a huge reservoir of arable farmlands and grazing land where livestock could be extensively breaded. Turkey agricultural sector and the policies that have triggered its immense growth are worth a close and considerable study.

Turkey evidently is reforming its economy and agriculture, not according to orthodox rules enforced by international financial institutions, but according to its national needs and priorities. Staying in the fold of liberal democracies and market economies does not mean a sacrifice of national specifics. Turkey’s experience has proved that creative and imaginative application of market economy can bring huge returns and trigger successful economic construction, political and social inclusion.

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