A TURKISH TWIST

Zambia 2014 | AGRICULTURE | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Mehdi Eker, Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock of the Republic of Turkey, on the new outreach being made between the Turkish and Zambian agriculture sectors, and the possibilities of phosphates for fertilizers.

Mehdi Eker
BIOGRAPHY
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.

You recently called for a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Turkey and Zambia. How can Turkey help African countries realize their potential in the agricultural sector?

A strategy document for Africa was published on March 26, 2010 with a view to developing a comprehensive strategy to develop political and economic relations with African countries to which Turkey attaches great importance in terms of foreign policy. Within the framework of the strategy, our Ministry sits on a committee under the coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that looks to ensure active cooperation between the relevant ministries, public institutions, and organizations to fulfill the goals defined during the Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit. In order to establish a legal basis for cooperation possibilities, Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meetings between our country and Zambia will be organized in the near future. Furthermore, Agricultural Steering Committee meetings are also planned. Many African countries suffer from food insecurity, but it will be possible to assist small-scale enterprises and family enterprises once cooperation is enhanced.

What investment opportunities exist for Turkish firms in the agriculture sector in Zambia?

During the bilateral meeting at our Ministry held within the scope of the visit of Zambian Ambassador HE Miriam Kaseba Mulenga to our country on February 4, 2013, Ambassador Mulenga stated that the government welcomes investments in the country and that all investors will be protected. Zambia has great potential in terms of agricultural investment. Priority areas for Zambia are fertilizers and seeds, with sufficient capacity for the production of the former. Natural resources in Zambia have the quality to support agriculture. The country has rich phosphate reserves, and ammonium nitrate is also found in abundance.

How will strengthening agricultural cooperation between Zambia and Turkey serve for the intensification of economic relations between the two countries?

Turkey's African initiative is of crucial importance to our Ministry. Our government is also putting great emphasis on this policy. Further steps must be taken in the fields of cooperation in trade and agriculture between the two countries. Mutual investment opportunities shall increase through further cooperation. An increase in concrete cooperation opportunities shall contribute to market share and new export opportunities in our general economic relations and shall mutually facilitate trade, especially in agricultural products with high export potential.

Turkey is aiming for agricultural exports worth $40 billion a year by 2023. How will that be achieved?

In 2002, total agricultural foreign trade was worth over $8 billion and 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% in the last 11 years and thus rose 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 exports of industrial goods by providing input 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 this objective 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 in EU markets increases out reliability in the world and thus increases the number of products we export and the number of countries to which we export—Turkey's agricultural goods were exported to 197 countries in 2013.