Developing the Organic Option in Turkey
Christopher Stopes, Team Leader, Organic Agriculture for Turkey Project *
Turkey has a strong and rapidly developing organic sector. Turkey supplies half the world’s organic
cotton and is a major supplier of nuts, fruits, vegetables, herbs and many other organic foods. There
are more than 14,000 organic producers farming on 0.6% of Turkey’s agricultural land, they are
involved in well-developed commercial enterprises. Control and certification is carried out to a high
standard. MARA has implemented policies to support this organic development in line with Europe as
well as North America and the Far East.
Cooperatives and producer unions have flourished in the organic sector – providing a route to market
for many small organic farmers. Although the local market for organic produce in Turkey is still small
(around €2 million per year), organic farmers’ markets, direct supply and sales through supermarkets
are on the increase. More than 95% of the organic produce in Turkey is exported – to a value of around
€35 million per year (61 million YTL) – equivalent to 0.5% of all Turkey’s food exports.
The new agenda for organic food and farming in Turkey is to make the links across different areas of
policy and practice. Organic agricultural policy should be about more than food and farming. There is
now, in Turkey, an opportunity to maximise the organic option as far as possible. There is a favourable
policy context in both government and business. Technologically advanced and business orientated,
Turkey has proven to be effective in developing and implementing innovative and relevant policies.
Organic is multi-functional, recognised as an effective tool for rural development as well as the
protection of the environment and human health. The contribution of organic food and farming to such
a wide range of ‘public goods’ requires an organic policy that delivers a high level of integration so
that the organic opportunity can be fully exploited. There are several key themes: Climate change;
rural employment; protection of human health from the risks of pesticides (for the farm worker and the
consumer); protecting and enhancing biodiversity; reducing pollution from nitrogen fertilisers and
pesticides; enhancing food quality; fair terms of trade; linking producers and consumers; protecting
cultural traditions and values.
To realise these benefits requires links to be firmly established – between government departments
obviously, but more importantly with all those in society interested in a sustainable future for food and
farming in Turkey. It is these people, who realise that organic can and will make a significant
contribution that we must empower and nurture. To realise the benefits also requires that we
communicate effectively at all levels in society from school children (what do they learn about and eat
in schools?), to consumers, young and old alike. A clear message is essential, answering the question:
A key driver must be increasing the market for organic food in Turkey, so that Turkish consumers see
the benefits. The development of a strong local market will help in the implementation of sustainable
organic farming systems, particularly through leading to a demand for livestock products (meat, milk,
cheese, eggs etc.) – which rely on legume based pasture and forage (clover, Lucerne etc.), a key
feature of sustainable rotations for organic farming and a traditional feature of Turkish agriculture that
must be protected.
A Turkish Organic Food and Farming Action Plan is in preparation, it provides a framework for action
around clear and realisable objectives that build on the great success of organic food and farming in
Turkey. Implementing the plan, when agreed, will help Turkey become a leader in organic food and
farming, with all the environmental, health and cultural benefits that this will provide.
*The Organic Agriculture for Turkey Project is supported by the European Union