TBY talks to Mehmet Eker, Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock, on agricultural GDP and export goals for the future.

Mehmet Eker
Mehmet Eker has been Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs since 2005. Prior to this post, he was a Ministry Consultant from 1998-2002. He also worked as Assistant Director at the Ankara-Lalahan Central Stockbreeding Research Institute from 1989 to 1994. He received his PhD from Ankara University in 2007 and a Master’s of Science from the University of Aberdeen in the UK in 1992.

One of Turkey's main objectives for 2023 is to increase agricultural GDP to $150 billion. What strategy is the Ministry employing to achieve this target?

Agricultural GDP was at $23.7 billion in 2002 and has increased by 161% over the past decade, reaching $62 billion. Our efforts continue in order to reach the $150 billion target by 2023. At the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock, our main priority is to structure a sustainable agricultural sector that provides the population with sufficient and high-quality food and preserves and improves its net export position in agricultural products with increased competitiveness. In light of this priority, our Ministry, with a visionary perspective that goes far beyond day-to-day concerns, has established an administrative structure with improved policy-making and implementation capacities, in which all stakeholders can actively participate. As part of our strategic plan for the 2013-2017 period, shaped in accordance with Turkey's Vision 2023, and in parallel with the opinions of all sector stakeholders, the aim is to develop agricultural and social infrastructure services and enhance the welfare of rural areas through targeted development. In plant production, by integrating the basin-based production model and parcel identification system and, considering ecological conditions, suitable products will be produced in apt places in definite quantities. Certified seed production will be increased from 647,000 tons to 800,000 tons in 2015, and to 1 million tons by 2023. In livestock production, we aim to increase the share of the highly productive pure breed cattle population from 41% to 48% in five years and the meat production of sheep and goats from 12% to 25% in 10 years, all the while boosting pastoral area from 4.5 million decares to 5.3 million decares by 2015, and to 7.7 million decares by 2023 and the cultivation area for forage crops from 2.7 million hectares to 4 million hectares by 2023. In fisheries, over the next decade, we aim to increase aquaculture production from 212,000 tons to 500,000 tons and provide water resources with a total of 50 million fry for sustainable production.

Turkey is aiming at agricultural exports of $40 billion a year by 2023. How will that be done?

In 2002, total agricultural foreign trade was worth over $8 billion and has increased by 331% over the last 11 years, reaching some $34 billion in 2013. Moreover, while in 2002 total exports of agricultural products were worth $4 billion, this figure has increased by 343% over the past 11 years to $17.7 billion in 2013. A foreign trade surplus of $6 billion was generated in 2013. Since 2002, our country, a major exporter of foodstuffs, has been generating a foreign trade surplus on a regular basis. Turkey's success in exporting both processed and primary agricultural products has been increasing exponentially, and this further contributes to our export of industrial goods by providing inputs for industrial products, thus reducing the current account deficit (CAD). Reaching over $40 billion in agricultural product exports is one of the 2023 objectives, and will be achieved via safe food that is in compliance with EU standards as EU legislation has largely been adopted. Today, efficient and effective measures for the control and eradication of plant and animal diseases are taken and food safety is ensured. Turkish goods take their place both in EU markets and on tables across the world. As we have also experienced in the exports of dairy products, the fact that we are present in EU markets increases our reliability worldwide, thereby increasing the number of products we export and the number of countries to which we sell—Turkey's agricultural goods were exported to 197 countries in 2013.