Turkey Table of Contents

Agriculture--the occupation of the majority of Turks--continued to be a crucial sector of the economy in the mid-1990s, although industrial production was rising. Turkey's fertile soil and hard-working farmers make the country one of the few in the world that is self-sufficient in terms of food. Turkey's great variety of microclimates and adequate rainfall permit a broad range of crops. Farming is conducted throughout the country, although it is less common in the mountainous eastern regions, where animal husbandry is the principal activity. In the mid-1990s, crop cultivation accounted for about two-thirds and livestock for one-third of the gross value of agricultural production; forestry and fishing combined contributed a minimal amount.

Agriculture's share in overall income has fallen progressively, declining from almost 50 percent of GDP in 1950 to around 15 percent of GDP by 1993. During the same period, the sector grew only about 1 percent faster than the country's population, and per capita food production declined in absolute terms. The relatively poor showing of the agricultural sector reflected in part government policies that had made rapid industrialization a national priority since the 1930s. In addition, farmers were slow to adopt modern techniques, with agricultural output suffering from insufficient mechanization, limited use of fertilizer, excessive fallow land, and unexploited water resources. The result has been low yields.

Despite agriculture's relative decline in the 1980s as a percentage of GDP, the sector played an important role in foreign trade. Turkey enjoys a comparative advantage in many agricultural products and exports cereals, pulses, industrial crops, sugar, nuts, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and livestock products. The main export markets are the European Union and the United States--to which Turkey primarily exports dried fruit and nuts, cotton, and tobacco--and the Middle East, which primarily imports fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat from Turkey. As late as 1980, agricultural exports accounted for nearly 60 percent of the total value of exports. In the early 1990s, agricultural products accounted for 15 percent of total exports. Around 50 percent of manufactured exports originate in the agricultural sector; counting these exports, the agricultural sector's contribution to exports again would rise to around 60 percent.

Agriculture has great potential for further development, provided that the state can implement successful agrarian reforms and development projects. Observers believe that to achieve balanced growth, Turkey needs to improve the training of farmers, make better seed available, upgrade livestock herds, standardize products, expand food-processing facilities (including cold storage and refrigerated transport), and reorganize marketing networks. Since 1980 the government has encouraged investments in packaging, processing, livestock, and slaughterhouses, and has imported new seed varieties. These efforts had a modest impact on overall production by the mid-1990s.

The failure to exploit the country's great agricultural potential has contributed to Turkey's periodic economic crises and poses serious problems for future development. Glaring inequalities of income between urban and rural residents--and among segments of the farm population--have created social tensions and contributed to emigration from rural to urban areas. Malnutrition continues to threaten segments of the rural population, especially children. The Kurdish insurgency in eastern Turkey has added to problems in some rural areas. Rising incomes in the urban areas have caused increased demand for more "exotic" foodstuffs, especially meat and poultry. Since 1984 Turkey has liberalized its policy on food imports, partly to meet this urban demand and partly to offset domestic price pressure. Many previously banned luxury food imports and imports that compete with domestically produced staples are permitted for these reasons; in turn, the growth of these imports has contributed to pressures on foreign trade accounts. Overall, agricultural output needs to expand along with the rest of the economy to maintain adequate supplies for industry and exports. Longer-term economic growth prospects and macroeconomic stability, therefore, depend on the performance of Turkey's agricultural sector and rural incomes.

Agricultural Policy
Land Use
Land Tenure
Cropping Patterns and Production
Forestry and Fisheries

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress