FRIENDS OF THE EARTH

Turkey 2014 | AGRIFOOD | B2B: ORGANIC

Turkey's agricultural potential is being tapped by some for ecofriendly farming methods.

Burak Bardakçı
BURAK BARDAKÇI
Founder & CEO
Bata Food
Mehmet Özokumuşoğlu
MEHMET ÖZOKUMUŞOĞLU
General Manager
Doğan Organik

How has the demand for organic products changed in Turkey and beyond over the past decade?

MEHMET ÖZOKUMUŞOĞLU Growth has been slow in past years, but has picked up to around 20% per year, which is good for the organic sector. The consumption of organic products is related to the economic power and education of the people. In that regard, Turkey has a young and well-educated population. The economy is also growing and people are starting to make money, and want to buy healthy and quality products; that is also helping to grow the organic market. Now, if you look at household dairy consumption, organic products represent just 0.1%, but the figure is expected to rise to 2% within the next five years.

BURAK BARDAKÇI In some categories, such as apricots, 85% of global production is carried out in Turkey. In that regard, Turkey sees demand from all over the world for its products. There is also a cost and quality difference. Even if you produce in California, the price will be higher and the quality lower. Conventionally, overall demand is approximately the same every year, but for organic products, exports represented 60% of our total sales in 2012, while in 2013 this figure hit 85%. Demand mainly comes from Europe and the US, though we are also seeing greater demand from Asian countries such as Thailand and China, which I believe is related to improved incomes and awareness of healthy nutrition. It is hard to satisfy Asian demand since people's habits and commercial behavior are very different from European or American practices, although it remains a good market, and we are placing a great emphasis on it. In the US, all companies involved in the organic business know each other well. Turkey does not have too many exporters of organic products, which is why we entered this business.

Do you have any plans to move into new areas?

MO We want to maintain our leading role within the sector. That is our first target. We also want to focus on local production in particular, such as honey, which is also very important in the region. We would like to bring together a group of products under one brand and introduce them to the market. Turkey's organic meats sector is also attractive; you can already find organic eggs and chicken, but organic red meat is not so readily available in the country. We have made inroads in that respect, and already have the equipment and livestock, and are also planning to commence organic meat production shortly. In 2014, Turkey will host the World Organic Forum, and we are planning to become involved in the sponsorship of that event, scheduled for September. It will be a good opportunity to provide information to the local population about organic products and teach them about the differences and benefits.

BB Many farmers are becoming knowledgeable on the subject, with larger numbers applying for organic certification every year. Previously, many farmers didn't know the difference between organic and conventional products. Today, they produce organically and sell products at higher prices. Therefore, both demand for their products and profits are increasing. This has taken time due to the period of transformation that farms must undergo. It takes three or four years for soil to become suitable for organic products, and over that period production becomes more expensive, while the crops produced cannot be sold in the organic category. In many categories, we hadn't been providing organic varieties, such as apricots, figs, and sultanas, but today more organic products are emerging. The transformation isn't complete, however, and it will take some years for more products to be certified and increase in quantity. Actually, overall, the organic market in Turkey remains small—it is confined solely to the high-income bracket. When the range and availability increases, however, organic food will become more popular.