Claims that the novel coronavirus pandemic will cause a food shortage in Turkey are not rational because the country has no issues with agricultural production, especially of cereals, says an agriculture expert. Turkey, which produces around 20 million tons of wheat annually, is a self-sufficient country, Orhan Ozcatalbas told Anadolu Agency.
"Expectations of famine in the next 3-4 years for a country which has planted wheat on seven million hectares of land before the coronavirus epidemic is unrealistic unless there are unusual climatic factors," he said.
Touching on Russia's suspension of wheat exports as a protectionist measure due to the coronavirus, he said Turkey imports wheat from Russia for manufacturing and exporting industrial products such as biscuits, flour, pasta and semolina and not for domestic consumption, including bread.
He said the country imported 60 million tons of wheat in the last two decades and exported products equivalent to 70 million tons of wheat in the same period.
Turkey, which increased its flour exports twofold and pasta exports by more than sixfold in the last decade, is the world’s largest flour exporter and second-largest pasta exporter, Ozcatalbas noted.
He said the psychological environment caused by the virus epidemic has affected the agriculture sector as well as other sectors. "As a sector that produces food for human consumption, the importance and indispensability of agriculture were seen,” he added.
"Countries panicked by the coronavirus outbreak such as Italy and Spain are having difficulty handling it," he said. If the pandemic cannot be brought under control, countries with an insufficient labor force will face great difficulties in agricultural production, he noted.
GOVERNMENT SHOULD TAKE
During this period when borders are closed, some countries, including Italy, France and the Netherlands, will find it difficult to hire foreign workers from other countries such as Bulgaria, Romania and Morocco, Ozcatalbas warned. He underlined that this situation may lead to a shrinkage of the agricultural sector, usage of stocks, imports and food safety problems in these countries.
"Turkey has a great advantage because it has its seasonal agricultural workforce, but it does not mean there will be no problems in this area,” he said. He noted that the government should plan an agricultural calendar for seasonal workforces considering labor demand periods. "The decisions and measures taken by the Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Ministry regarding the hygiene, shelter and health services of seasonal and permanent workers and their families were important," he said. He said the government should also introduce additional measures for the agricultural sector such as financial support for farmers and their families to ensure the continuity of agricultural production. AA