The food inflation has been a leading topic in Turkey's recent local election agenda. Agricultural policies on the production, pricing, consumption and adulteration of foods have been the focal point in the debates. Some groups cling to the agreement that the agriculture sector in Turkey is in a tight corner while some others draw an unrealistically optimistic picture. Problems in the agricultural sector will indeed continue to persist along with human history. What really matters is to adopt a healthy approach to the problems, making sound judgments, producing coherent solutions and implementing them in a disciplined manner.
Key issues in Turkey’s agricultural sector are in the fields of the quantity of production (food security), production of healthy food (food safety) and working and living standards in rural spaces (rural development). The solutions offered for these problems include closing the productivity gap in food security, control mechanisms in food safety, disseminating alternative agriculture and developing the working and living conditions in rural areas. Although increasing productivity with advanced technologies is one of the key conditions for the development of agriculture, technological enhancements cannot be enabled without improving working and living conditions and ensuring value pricing and market security of agricultural products. Consequently, the primary goals on the subject should be creating more livable rural spaces, promoting sustainable agriculture and introducing a “from field to fork” structure.
Turkish agriculture needs a fresh look by considering a number of advantages such as the product range stemming from different climates, market mobility caused by increasing demand for food, proximity to countries with high food import rates along with new technologies and farming approaches. Aside from using sustainable land and water, it is possible to close the productivity gap without making any concessions to food safety through disseminating certified seed, increasing irrigable lands, benefiting chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides with precision agriculture techniques and rendering administrations more effective. Also, it is required to reduce costs by using production resources more efficiently, promote pro-poor and sustainable agriculture approaches and focus on reliable food production efforts.
Food security, food safety and rural development are three key issues in Turkey’s agricultural sector.
Furthermore, it is necessary to engage in fruit growing in sloping lands instead of bottom lands with alternative usage, transition into organic farming in exported foods and highlight their organic nature in the international market, increase greenhouse cultivation with alternative energies in order to meet the increasing off-season demand, allocate suitable public lands to greenhouse growers and turn Anatolia’s medical and aromatic botanical treasure into prosperity. To obtain sufficient and sustainable income in this field, it is essential to develop agro-tourism and ecotourism, which are based on discovering local products, natural landmarks, traditional lifestyles, cultural assets and products with added values in highlands and valleys with a micro-climate.
The relative increase in animal production must be continued by developing systems to reduce production costs aside from multiple breeding/selection policies and better caring and nutrition conditions. In cattle farming, the main income consists of the sales of livestock and milk. Therefore, it is necessary to establish and disseminate cold chain in milk production in the regions where income from milk sales are very low. Considering the fact that feed constitutes around 60 to 70 percent of animal production costs, the breeder must be able to produce the feed they need since a profitable animal production is not possible by buying feed. Also, it is inevitable to disseminate low-cost and sustainable animal breeding that will produce meat and milk without wasting the roughage that grows in remote corners of the country.
It is possible to render ovine breeding more profitable with better herd management, caring and feeding, and increasing the accuracy of selection for twinning rate. The acceleration in the poultry sector and dependence on imports in the procurement of breeding stock and feed must be decreased. For water products, the associations in the field must be strengthened, insurance practices must become widespread, new foreign markets must be explored and coastal logistical facilities and specialized organized zones must be established along with the efforts to increase domestic consumption of water products. Meanwhile, bee culture can be developed by disseminating the production of by-products, procuring queen suitable for regions, supporting the production of organic honey, keeping fruitful/healthy colonies in good quality pastures and organizing producer trainings.
Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Ministry, after its reorganization, has been displaying an integrated approach to agriculture and forestry.
Suitable production systems that will ease food safety concerns, processing standards and better marketing conditions must be formed. The problems of food inflation and the fact that the raw material provided by the agriculture sector to the food production industry is not satisfactory both in quantity and quality will only be resolved through contract farming, a cooperative system, the enactment of the new marketplace law and reformation of licensed warehousing. In addition, it is important to renew the technologies used in food production, adapt businesses to economic scale, structure the ones with low capacity, prevent information pollution on food, and assure the reliability and transparency of food contents. To that end, food quality labels must be disseminated and food controls must be conducted in a more effective manner.
After its reorganization, Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Ministry has been displaying an integrated approach to agriculture and forestry, which will increase the effect of the activities in the field. The ministry should mainly take on a regulating, supervising and funding role in order to contribute to the sector. In cooperation with universities and strong provincial organizations that are answerable to the governor’s office, must be formed in provinces. In small districts, competent agriculturalists must work for district governorates. In so doing, the independence, dynamism and productivity that stems from the confidence of achieving something will come to the forefront in the business environment where field workers will be more prominent than managers. Thus, the engineers and veterinarians working in the field will be equipped with adequate powers, authorities and responsibilities.
Turkey's agricultural policies
Agricultural policies and support aim to ensure food security, protect family businesses and prevent low profits in agriculture. Supports should increase the farmer’s income and resolve the structural problems of the sector in order to build a sector that is competitive and independent. Agricultural support needs to operate for six to seven years, focus on products with high added value and take regional differences into account in order to serve the purposes. Support should also encourage consumption in order to boost demand and provide food support to low-income groups. Focusing on young farmers, their publicity and implementation in line with these goals will increase the effectiveness of the support provided.
Impact analyses that consider the socio-economic aspect of the issue must be conducted for the acknowledgment and reformation of important agricultural policies among farmers such as land inheritance law, land consolidation, basin-based supports and licensed warehousing. The sources allocated to rural development projects that contribute to reverse the migration trends by improving the working and living conditions in rural spaces must be increased. Rural development projects must also bring outcomes such as mobilizing local potentials, getting in the habit of working per project, and encouraging stakeholders of the development to learn from each other by making cooperation and good practice examples visible.
A precision agriculture approach must be adopted in supporting inputs such as diesel oil, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. Monopolization must be prevented in seed growing. Instead, local seeds must be promoted and seed improvement must be the main focus. Rather than granting loans, the state must take on a regulatory role. A bill that will regulate water use, such as restricting water use, pressurized irrigation, finding alternative water resources and increasing the quality of irrigation water must be proposed. For the success of the cooperatives that will increase the market power and shorten the marketing chain, family businesses must be functional and professional whereas their bad image must be restored with good practice examples.
To guarantee the future of agriculture and enhance quality in agricultural research and the works of the staff in the field and the producers’ activities, higher education institutions in agriculture must offer better scholarship opportunities and present job guarantees to students. The contribution of universities, the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and the private sector are all required to produce and spread new information thanks to the problem-oriented studies focusing on priority areas. New information must be produced on the problems in the field with the help of agricultural education, research and publishing activities. This information must be conveyed to students and farmers. An interactive education network should also include farmers, relevant institutions and organizations, experts and policy-makers, companies in input procurement and food sector along with academics, researchers and publishers.
In order to boost its agricultural trade activities, Turkey has to (1) focus on products with high added value, (2) make sure that its traditional export goods are organic, (3) increase its international market diversity and size, (4) improve its quality standards and (5) enable continuity in product supply.
In order to boost its agricultural trade activities, Turkey has to focus on products with high added value, make sure that its traditional export goods are organic, increase its international market diversity and size, improve its quality standards and enable continuity in product supply. Although there are problems of self-sufficiency and safety in strategic foods, the country must concentrate on the trade of products with comparative advantage. Besides, the rural development must be expedited by benefiting IPARD grants given for the compliance with the EU Common Agricultural Policy to the full extent. It would also be right to update the Customs Union, widen the product range and avert the losses of Turkey in free trade areas signed between the EU and third countries. Turkey must establish competitive agricultural trade and benefit the privileges in this respect at maximum level in line with the World Trade Organization’s free trade mission.
Long-term outcomes of the decisions on the use of natural resources must be considered in order to minimize the negative impacts of natural resources’ non-agricultural use on agriculture. One of the most important issues regarding forest resources is the misuse of forests, while another one is the waste of pastures under or around forests with the restriction of their use. Agroforestry will contribute to the solution of environmental, economic and social problems by using these resources. Implementation and dissemination of agroforestry will be very useful for the sustainability of resources, pro-poor development and food safety.
As can be seen from the above-listed recommendations on agricultural policies in Turkey, agriculture can develop more rapidly in the presence of an approach based on multiple solutions. Since an approach based on a single solution can lead to the wrong track more easily, different solutions according to changing time periods, spaces and conditions might be needed. Just like large-scale businesses, small businesses using feed resources in distant corners of the country can also contribute to the solution. Aside from using an artificial insemination method in increasing productivity per animal, natural insemination and selection can also be a good breeding method. In addition to input-concentrated mass production in big businesses, individual production in hobby gardens only intending self-consumption can also be a part of the solution.
As the agriculture sector will not come to an end by its nature, its problems will not be resolved all of a sudden. It will take some time to reach the businesses in far corners of the country and achieve the targeted transformation on the subject. Since it is not very possible to transform those producing for self-consumption through market signals and agricultural supports, a long period will be needed for rural development policies, social policies and the changes they will bring. Furthermore, the rural population mostly comprise the elderly with lower educational level who are not exactly open to new ideas, which will set an impediment to development. Consequently, reformative policies must be continuous and carried out patiently.
Turkey's Agriculture and Forestry Ministry must seek to develop policies that will provide the rural populations with better and sustainable working and living conditions instead of policies to discipline the sector.
The agriculture sector cannot be influenced as easily as other sectors. It is not possible to reach every producer in the country, intervene in their decisions and steer them. Except for some specialized businesses, work and life are intermingled in the agriculture sector. In such a structure, family and production decisions affect each other. It is not always possible to develop suitable strategies on the basis of data with high measurement error. Consequently, the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry must seek to develop policies that will provide the rural populations with better and sustainable working and living conditions instead of policies to discipline the sector.
Rather than top-down policies, Turkey's agriculture policies should target better rather than the best. Bottom-up projects developed by local initiatives are less risky as their success is more likely. Developed economies followed this path and achieved a steady growth. So, an approach based on multiple solutions that target better must be created and practiced in a continuous and consistent way.