Turkey Table of Contents

Animal husbandry is an important part of Turkey's agricultural sector and economy. Livestock products, including meat, milk, eggs, wool, and hides, contributed more than 33 percent of the value of agricultural output in the mid-1990s. Sheep and cattle are kept mainly on the grazing lands of Anatolia. Despite growing demand for animal products in Turkey's cities as incomes rose, animal numbers were static in the 1980s and fell in the early 1990s. Although yields were growing, traditional methods kept the livestock industry from achieving its considerable potential. Only 20 percent of cattle, for example, were high-yielding variety breeds. The oil boom in the Persian Gulf, however, led to an expansion of export markets and to major investments in the meat industry of the eastern Turkish towns of Erzurum and Van. In 1992 meat exports totaled US$140 million; exports, however, were being hurt by the UN embargo on Iraq. Wool is also a significant export. Traditional Turkish sheep varieties produce a coarse wool suitable for carpets and blankets rather than clothing. Merino sheep, which produce a finer wool, have been introduced in the Bursa region.

During the 1950s, officials expected that livestock production would decline as grain cultivation increased at the expense of grazing lands. In fact, the period of most rapid expansion of grain cultivation also saw an upswing in the number of farm animals. One result was overgrazing of grasslands, wasteland, forests, and mountain meadows, which damaged the soil, although not enough to reduce the size of herds. Another result was smaller, less productive animals. Cattle, which process coarse forage less efficiently than sheep and goats, suffered most from the loss of grazing land, but nearly all animals produced less meat and milk and fewer offspring.

Farmers made a modest beginning toward improving livestock production techniques in the 1980s, but traditional practices were hard to change. Even if they have no land, most village families own a few animals. Animals essentially scrounge for an existence, foraging on crop stubble, weeds, and grass on fallow land, and on uncultivable grazing areas. Few farmers integrate livestock production with cropping activities or match feed supply to their animals' requirements. Rural families raise livestock on land that lacks alternative uses, but the system does not allow the high levels of production necessary to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding population. Moreover, overgrazing has caused environmental damage that is difficult to repair.

Data on the livestock industry are poor but indicative of general trends. Official statistics reveal that recent years have seen changes in the relative roles of various animals in the farm economy. Given Turkish dietary preferences, sheep have relatively high value and increased in number from about 36.8 million head in 1970 to about 40.4 million head in 1992. The number of goats declined during the same period, from about 18.9 million to about 10.7 million because of grazing restrictions in forests and government policies encouraging herd reduction. The use of tractors probably has caused the decline in the number of oxen. Cattle, which have risen in value as farmers strive to meet the growing urban demand for milk, increased in number from about 2.1 million in 1970 to about 11.9 million in 1992.

Livestock output has increased over the years, although less rapidly than demand. In the early 1980s, the country was essentially self-sufficient in milk products, producing about 5.2 million tons per year. By the early 1990s, milk output had doubled, to 10 million tons per year. Annual meat production averaged 660,000 tons per year; this figure, however, represents only an estimate because most slaughtering occurs outside official slaughterhouses. During the 1980s, the price for red meat increased sharply, leading to a fall in domestic meat demand and an increase in poultry consumption. However, meat demand was partially sustained by exports of live animals--some of them smuggled over borders--to Middle Eastern countries, especially Iran and Iraq. The UN embargo on Iraq hurt domestic meat exporters after 1990.

Poultry production expanded rapidly after 1980 and appears capable of rising with demand as incomes increase and diets begin to include animal products. Poultry exports to Iran and Iraq also grew in the 1980s but fell somewhat in the 1990s. Many Turkish poultry operations are small, producing between 5,000 and 10,000 fowl at a time. However, larger, integrated operations have also been established, particularly in urban areas. One, Yupi of Izmir, claims to be one of the largest poultry producers in the world. By 1992 Turkey had 134 million head of poultry, double the number that it had had in 1987.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress