In recent years there has been considerable interest in agriculture and animal husbandry. Foreigners have been buying land for agriculture and local investors have been establishing animal husbandry facilities. The forecasts are that the interest will continue and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Sami Güçlü says that there are many amendments that need to be made in order to facilitate the development of agriculture and within the framework of preparations for the EU. He says that for this reason they have prepared plans and that there will be a major transformation within 10 years.
Agriculture heads the list of topics which will be discussed during the process of Turkey’s accession to the EU. As a result, given that Turkey which has not completely lost its identity as being an agricultural country, the way in which these negotiations proceed is of great importance. It seems that many parameters, ranging from the size of enterprises, to production and marketing standards will ‘no longer be the same’. In this sector, both the actors involved in agricultural production and the consumers will have to prepare for a brand-new life. This means that the bulk of the work falls to the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Affairs. Prof. Dr. Sami Güçlü, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, explained to Capital how agricultural and agricultural activities will change over the next ten years and how its identity will be transformed, as well as briefly evaluating the issues on the agenda in agriculture-animal husbandry.
MODIFICATIONS FOR FOODSTUFFS PLANTS
The uneven distribution of wealth in Turkey looks bad. But, even so, we want high standards. But this is something which can only be achieved after peoples’ basic needs have been met. Without forgetting this reality, we have to establish a regulatory mechanism and acceptable measures on the subject of public health and food safety. People must know what they are eating and drinking.
Even though it has not become public, work is continuing. For one thing, we are planning important changes to the Foodstuffs Law. Our aim is to establish a process which ensures improvement. In production, a manager will be designated as being responsible for production. Enterprises over a specified size will employ an executive responsible for this. If s/he does not perform his/her role adequately then s/he will be dismissed and will not be able to find work again. The second measure is that products which have not received production permits will not be allowed to be sold in sales outlets.
NEW STANDARD FOR SALES
The enabling directives which will be promulgated to clarify this law, which will be established related to foodstuffs in Turkey, will set the standards for the places and ways in which sales can be realized. This will include the monitoring of the market, and there will be a section related to the conditions for the sale and packaging of basic foodstuffs. The criteria for exports will cover a broad range of products. Tens of regulations are currently being prepared in relation to this law. We most certainly have to work on ensuring that markets and wholesale markets, initially in the major cities and then in all municipalities across Turkey, are raised to a level where they comply with the necessary standards. We have to prevent the sale of foodstuffs in bulk. These measures do not mean that the market places will be removed. But, for example, it will no longer be possible to sell cheese in bulk from tins. There will also be regulations related to the sale of fruit and vegetables. Sales will be conducted in enclosed, clean environments.
NEW PROJECT IN ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
There are two things which need to be done in animal husbandry. We shall tell people: “Let’s improve these animals. This is something which will take 4-5 years to implement… The other is to improve the quality of animal feed storage.”
I don’t want to talk too ambitiously about animal husbandry but I believe you will see what I mean if at the end of 2005 you follow how much progress there has been in animal husbandry in Kars. I hope that we shall be able to realize this. What we shall launch there is a one-year program covering 50,000 animals in 2,000 locations.
The method is as follows: We shall give support to the farmers, we shall supply contracted veterinarians and we shall secure results accordingly. Because we are supporting the farmers in terms of raising the standards of the animals but they do not and cannot. We shall pay for the work done by the veterinarians. We shall ensure that in every county and in some pastures in villages in the counties, vegetable feed is in silage rather than packet form. The concept of silage is a conservation method which ensures the preservation of the nutritional value of the plants and this will be monitored through a special administrative channel. We shall implement and train people about these improvements. We shall most certainly develop animal husbandry. This is how we shall do it.
THERE IS GREAT INTEREST IN AGRICULTURE
Turkey will develop rapidly both socially and economically as a result of European Union accession process. This period of rapid progress will result in very important changes in consumer expenditure on foodstuffs in Turkey. This will be mostly in animal husbandry. Investors believe that this will trigger a considerable rise in domestic demand in Turkey.
I think those who think like this are absolutely right. In agricultural products, the areas in which there has not been an increase in revenue are crop production and basic foodstuffs. But in animal husbandry products the rise in revenue will be accompanied by an even higher increase in demand. Turkey has a lot of land which can be used for agriculture. Turkey has a lot of land which can be very productive for organic agriculture. At the same time, our agricultural land can also be used for traditional production and it will be used for the production of high added value products. Instead of classic production, higher quality, export-oriented products will be planted…
As a result, this is one of the factors in the interest in investments in agriculture in Turkey. That is to say, expectations that demand will increase and thus result in profits. This sector is attractive psychologically. It is not an attraction which can be explained by profits alone. People want to return to the land. For example, when we met with an important investor he said: “Now I finally understand why the Indians made the cow a sacred animal. It is an animal which really has been meticulously created.” This approach is a real element in the desire of people to return to the land.
LOT OF INTEREST FROM FOREIGNERS
What is the latest situation as regards the inflow of foreign capital in the agricultural sector in Turkey?
Agriculture is a new area for investment in Europe. There is no chance of finding suitable land there. But if the investment is made in Turkey, we have a lot of land which is suitable for agriculture. But if there is no irrigation we cannot engage in agriculture.
On the other hand, we use the land in a very unproductive manner. We have a great potential in this regard. But I can say that we shall do everything to make things easy for foreign investors, particularly in animal husbandry and seeds.
There is a lot of interest from the Dutch. They are evaluating development in Turkey from the perspective of their own experience. They know the GAP region. But at the moment there are no concrete examples in terms of foreign investors. But there is no problem. Expect for the acquisition of land.
The public should not be disturbed in any way by this issue. Turkey needs this investment. I want Turkish companies to form foreign partnerships and form partnerships in the GAP region in animal husbandry and seeds in products for which there is a demand from abroad. This is the way demand is moving. If necessary, 49 year investments can be realized on the condition that they work with our companies, these institutions’ infrastructure and install irrigation facilities.
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