GROW THIS WAY

Turkey 2012 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Osman Balta, General Manager of GÜBRETAŞ, on corporate social responsibility in the context of fertilizer production.

Osman Balta
BIOGRAPHY
After receiving his university degree from Istanbul Technical University Sakarya Engineering Department, Osman Balta worked as a production and planning engineer in the private sector until 1988. After completing his military service, he began to work at the Camialtı Naval Yard for Türkiye Gemi Sanayi A.Ş., a subsidiary of the Ministry of Transportation. Since 2009, he has been in various high-ranking positions. In August 2009, he joined Gübre Fabrikaları T.A.Ş. as an Assistant General Manager, and he was assigned General Manager on February 1, 2012. He is a member of the Board of Directors of GÜBRETAŞ, Razi Petrochemical Co., Negmar Denizcilik ve Yatırım A.Ş., and Raintrade Petrokimya ve Dış Ticaret A.Ş.

What is the most remarkable social responsibility project that you have accomplished?

GÜBRETAŞ is a corporation that has always given prominence to social benefits; this has been our mission since the establishment of the company. In this context, we have been designing the Soil Productivity Map of Turkey project, which analyzes soil samples collected throughout the country in laboratories and provides farmers with the most prolific samples for agricultural products. The R&D department is working to complete the project by 2015. The technical characteristics of the soil samples are analyzed and recorded in an electronic database, and a prescription that contains area and soil characteristics, as well as cropping recommendations, is drawn up for farmers. This is a very important project, considering that 40% of the arable fields in Turkey are used for agricultural purposes, and most of them are not used correctly. Migration from rural to urban areas in the last 50 years has also influenced this phenomenon. The number of young and dynamic people engaged in agriculture has decreased. In general, people engaged in agriculture are using traditional methods that have usually passed from generation to generation. These methods fail to meet the requirements of today's modern practices. As a result, soil quality has diminished and profitability has decreased. A new driving force must be in place to reverse the ongoing process. In addition to this, a common awareness is needed to boost access to food and agricultural profitability, which are two very important factors for the population around the globe. This makes agriculture one of the strategic industries.

How did your overseas investment strategy develop?

Despite the fact that fertilizer consumption is around 5 million tons per year in Turkey, our country is still insufficient in terms of fertilizer raw material sources. For this reason, raw material needs and requirements are met by importing from the countries in the Black Sea Basin and North Africa. Considering these restrictions, GÜBRETAŞ has developed a new strategy with an eye for creating investment opportunities in raw material-rich territories.

Fertilizers are composed of three elements: nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. The reason for our investment in Iran is because the country is rich with natural gas resources to obtain nitrogen. North Africa is also a very important investment area with rich phosphate resources. We carry out ongoing negotiations and research for making investments in North African countries, such as Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. In this context, we have new proposals on the agenda. We will examine them and continue our study. When the company sees a suitable opportunity, we plan to take new steps in line with the international investment strategy that we have adopted.

Our investments to renew our facilities continue in order to improve our production capacity in Turkey. We are going to establish a new NPK plant that is anticipated to increase our production capacity by 45% in Kocaeli from 2012 to 2013.

What are the targets and plans in the medium term?

In the forthcoming years, we are planning to increase our market share up to 35% in the domestic market and hold a permanent position there. After completing our current investments, we intend to take new steps both at home and abroad, seeking to ensure that GÜBRETAŞ makes progress to become an international brand in the industry. The company is actively increasing the number of laboratories we currently have in three provinces and boosting its market efficiency by offering various types of fertilizers specific to the region and plant type. In addition, we continue to perform training and awareness-raising work for the farmers in order to encourage them to play a role in improving the quality and efficiency of agricultural production. Over 100,000 farmers were trained at nearly 1,400 points last year.

Currently, 75% of GÜBRETAŞ is owned by Agricultural Credit Cooperatives of Turkey, which is composed of Turkish farmers. The remaining 25% is traded at the Istanbul Stock Exchange. In other words, we can be considered a 100%-public owned company. We are therefore very aware of our social responsibilities. Our main goal is to preserve our reputation as a high-quality and reliable corporation and to strengthen GÜBRETAŞ's position as a brand.