|Turkey Market Development; Case Studies for Organic Agricultural Development|
Export of organic products in Turkey was built upon the existing infrastructure of conventional trading. Turkish export companies and producers are generally conventional traders of the same product range (e.g. seedless raisin, figs, apricots) who organize and contract with the growers for organic production. Some foreign investments, such as the Rapunzel Turkey organic food industry and trading company, were generally formed with Turkish partnerships some years after development of export markets for Turkish products. Some of these companies have been trading only organic foods.
The main importers of Turkish organic exports in recent years have been European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and Austria, as well as the USA and Japan. Despite the interest from the foreign market, there have never been strong efforts from Turkish market actors to widen their export contacts by attending international trade fairs such as Biofach. Unfortunately the export market of Turkey has not been growing as fast as the consumption of organic products in world markets because of the lack of marketing strategies and the insufficient development of export products.
Even if export production has helped to develop production for the domestic market, the costs for conversion and marketing have been a big problem, especially for smallholders in rural areas. Even the availability of low interest credits and extra direct payments by the government has not helped the organic growers who do not have a market guarantee for their production. The main problem here is lack of a national strategy for developing organic production and consumption. Unfulfilled expectations of easily earning a high income ended up with around 3,000 farmers leaving organic production in the first or second year. As many stores opened and closed in a few months. However, several big farms (between 150 and 500 ha) have been converted to organic, creating many jobs for the local people. Another initiative for the organic sector arose when big investors stepped in, such as the media boss Aydin Dogan, ho invested in an 800-cow unit for dairy production and is now selling the first Turkish organic milk.
A few years ago less than 5% of the population was informed about organic, and information is scarce and irrelevant. There also has been confusion about the terminology of organic. In the new legislation of 2002, after lobbying, especially by NGOs, the words Ekolojik’, ‘Biyolojik’ and ‘organic’ are synonymous. This confusion and lack of promotion of the national logo made it quite difficult to introduce organic products to the public. Another obstacle is that the media generally have presented organic products as a high class niche market and unaffordable. The only concrete change in the public eye and even in the media’s exposure has been achieved with concrete and successful projects such as the well-promoted 100% Organic Market in Istanbul.
Besides the private sector activities for the promotion of organic agriculture, the government has taken some concrete steps to support it, e.g. an obligation in the organic law saying that ‘the Higher Board of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation shall take necessary measures and initiatives to ensure that national, regional and local radio and TV stations broadcasting in the territory of the Republic of Turkey give space to educative programs about organic farming for at least 30 minutes a month’ .
The role of standards
Organic products were never sold uncertified because of the efforts and control of the NGOs supporting the government by promotion of the organic standard, certification, and guarantee system among the public. This has been a strong principle since the beginning of domestic organic market development.(Author: Victor Ananias)
Further reading on Early Organic Development In Turkey:
Case Study Overview
Early Organic Agricultural Development
Regulatory Framework and Policy
Supporting Structures and Lessons Learned
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
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