“A country may import products that it can not grow on its own soil, but we must not import products that our ancestors have produced for centuries. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to plan the production, reduce production costs, enable the producer to make money and in this way create a sustainable production structure. Any country can not delegate a vital matter such as its food production to another country by saying, “We can import anyway”. Each country needs to produce enough to meet domestic consumption. “
Mehmet REİS - Reis Gıda, CEO
Reis Gıda, known as a pulses giant today, was established in 1981 taking its name from the surname of Mehmet Reis, the founder of the company, on an area of 40 square meters in İstanbul, Unkapanı. In 1993, with a capacity of 30 thousand tons per year at Güngören, Reis Tarımsal Ürünler A.Ş. , the company moved to a plant that could produce 40 thousand tons per year in İkitelli-Aykosan Industrial Site in 2007. In May 2013, it moved to its factory in Esenyurt, Istanbul, which was built on an area of 9,500 square meters, and reached an output capacity of 70 thousand tons in rice and pulses with this additional investment. Reis, which is a global brand of dry food spreading to the world from Turkey, exports the rice and pulses produced with the labor of Anatolian farmers to 22 countries across 4 continents.
We have talked with Mehmet Reis, CEO of Reis Gıda, which have been in the agricultural sector for about 40 years in Turkey about his company and the pulses sector.
Mr. Reis, you have made your company a giant brand. Could you give us information about your brand’s birth process and investments?
I was born in 1957 in the county of Inebolu in Kastamonu. In 1975 I was found eligible to attend the Faculty of Law at Istanbul University. I started to work in a firm that traded rice in Istanbul-Unkapanı, which was accepted as a food exchange in those years. After working in this firm for 7 years, I established Reis Ticaret with the experience and confidence I gained in that sector. In 1981 we came out with the motto “You will either brand or make a difference”. We are the first company in the legume sector that have achieved branding. Reis Gıda, which have created awareness with on-site investments, is packing rice, species of wheat and bulgur, red lentils and legumes produced mainly from domestic and local seeds of Anatolia in its 17,000 square meter production facility in two factories in İstanbul together with Taşköprü garlic factory.
The success of companies or brands is now measured not only by their commercial size, but also by the benefit they provide to the society. Consumers expect the managers of the brands whose services and products they consume to work for a more livable world. Reis Gıda has been sensitive to social problems through its Corporate Social Responsibility projects and ensured its sustainability since 1993.
How are your exports going? Which one is the most important market for you?
We export Reis products, which are certified to comply with national and international quality norms, to 22 countries across 4 continents. We export the dry legume products such as rice, bulgur, red lentil, bean, chickpeas produced by our domestic seeds in Anatolian soil to leading agricultural exporter countries such as USA, France, Netherland, Germany on top of Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kuwait, Switzerland, Northern Cyprus, Turkic Republics and Japan. The products produced by the efforts of the Turkish farmer are opened up to the world with the brand ‘Reis’.
Could you give us some information about the technologies used in your facilities?
As a mover and shaker company, we continue to invest in the latest technological machinery to keep pace with changes and to meet customer demands in the best possible way. We are increasing our competitiveness with awareness of innovation by providing sustainability with our specialized team and R&D activities.
I EXPLAIN THE MAGNITUDE OF THE DANGER TO THE STUDENTS
Why do you get together with students so often?
Increasing urbanization and technology are causing our children to grow up without seeing the fields and the garden, without knowing the importance of land, water, forests and seas. As the management of a company that has been serving in the agricultural sector for nearly 40 years in Turkey, our Corporate Social Responsibility projects aim to educate our children about global climate change, protection of the environment, soil and water consciousness, sustainability of agricultural production, and the value and importance of domestic and local seeds. As the CEO of Reis Gıda, I try to establish this consciousness and continuity in conversation I have made in 45 educational institutions.
As a company, you have already organized some campaigns to draw attention to home cooking. However, we see that fast food culture has become fashionable in our country in the recent years. Can we ask your opinions on this subject?
Obesity is seen as a major threat to health all over the world. One out of every three persons is obese in our country. Scientists are warning that obesity is the main cause of many illnesses. As Reis Gıda, we started a fight against obesity for the first time in 2009 with the slogan “Healthy Generations with Traditional Tastes” to build obesity awareness. Our struggle in this area continued as a Corporate Social Responsibility Project as ‘Obesity is Preventable’, and similar campaigns that increase awareness about obesity. In 2015, we emphasized the importance of eating at home with ‘Homemade Food at Table’, ‘It is Cheaper for Sure’ campaigns. In 2016 the campaign was ‘Meal at Home’ and in 2017, “If all of your beloved ones meet at home, only then everything is okay”, emphasizing obesity awareness and importance of home cooking on every platform. This campaign will continue in 2018. As long as the problem of obesity persists, we, as Reis family, will continue our social responsibility project. We will bring the importance of healthy, adequate and balanced nutrition to agenda on every platform today and in the future as it is yesterday.
Although your products are more expensive than the imported products in the markets, they are experiencing intense interest from the citizens. How would you explain this?
Reis Gıda is the first and most powerful brand in terms of brand recognition in its sector in the research made over the past 25 years with the delicacies offered to the consumers. In 2016, research results with 1024 women who are responsible for making dinners in 12 provinces are the result of Resi Gıda being the most trusted, most preferred and recommended brand. This research, which is the reference for quality and taste for the head, adds a greater responsibility to us. The Turkish taste is accustomed to our tasty and natural native products. These are the biggest impacts if we are not preferred.
THE THOUGHT ‘WE CAN IMPORT ANYWAY’ IS WRONG
What do you want to tell us about what is happening in the pulses sector recently? Can we also get your thoughts on imports?
A country may import products that it can not grow on its own soil, but we must not import products that our ancestors have produced for centuries. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to plan the production, reduce production costs, enable the producer to make money and in this way create a sustainable production structure. It would not be right to replace imported products with products that we are familiar with. Any country can not delegate a vital matter such as its food production to another country by saying, “I can import anyway”. Each country needs to produce enough to meet domestic consumption.
Grains, pulses and oil seeds are the main food source of people and indispensable flavors of Turkish cuisine. It has a great prospect in terms of being a source of income for my countryside. Increasing the production of these products will be both fruitful in terms of the livestock sector and sustainable in agriculture and food. If the issues are handled by all stakeholders, coordination is achieved, and production-enhancing projects are implemented as soon as possible; there is no need to import these products, the outflow of foreign exchange will come to an end. With increasing export revenue, we are less open to foreign trade. The welfare of our farm grows. Country’s social and economic added value increases more.
WE WILL LIVE SERIOUS INCREASES IN PRICE IN THE NEXT YEAR
Turkey is importing pulses on top of a certain amount of export. How would you evaluate this?
Turkey produced 2 million tons of pulses in 1990. The country has the infrastructure and capacity to exceed these figures. If the crop is higher than these figures, then export volume of pulses can exceed $1.5 billion. There is excessive demand for the products produced with the domestic and local seeds grown in Turkey. Despite red lentils, chickpeas and beans grown in US, Canada, Mexico and India, which are the top countries in the world pulses exports, are cheaper domestically grown products are preferred. Turkey must take this demand into account and assess its production and export potential in the best way.
We have fertile soil and our farmers have the capacity to produce the best in this soil. The pulses manufacturers are demanding support and cost reduction during the production phase. They want to be supported in production with more qualified, productive fertilized seeds. Considering the domestic consumption and export potential in this framework, it should be investigated how much to produce from each product. Moreover, the product type and quantity of the product should be planned and the manufacturer should be guided and followed up.
What kind of a change do you expect at food prices in global markets?
In the world, product abundance and cheap imports are coming to an end. In the coming years, there will be serious increases in food prices all around the world. The only way to solve the problem of lack of production and rising food prices, which together have become one of the world’s greatest concerns, is to increase the total amount of production. Each country should make its own production in order to provide food safety of its people, especially considering the strategic reasons and force majeure.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS CREATING A GREAT DANGER FOR THE WORLD
We are curious about factors such as climate change, population growth and consumption that are closely related to food security. What are your concerns in this regard?
In recent years, seasons have changed depending on climate change. The precipitation balances are deteriorating. There is no precipitation for a long time, so there is a drought. Due to heavy rains, there are floods as well. Scientific studies indicate that we will experience natural disasters such as droughts, floods, frosts, hail, storms, and hoses more frequently. Scientists are expressing the concerns about the future of the planet saying, “The global crisis that will affect the entire World will not take place in oil, energy, or financial sector. It will rather show itself through food and water resources.” The warnings about possible disasters due to the climate change have been written for the near future, but now they are occurring now. Extraordinary climate events are now becoming ordinary.
We see that Turkey faces threats from global climate change just as the rest of the world. The arable areas are decreasing. Organic production, which is carried out under natural conditions with natural seeds that have been improved with knowledge of centuries, is gradually diminishing. Fish varieties and local seeds are disappearing one by one.
In an environment where the world population is increasing, agricultural production and food supply are decreasing, and there is a concern of global food crisis, each country needs to take measures to meet its domestic consumption and increase its production permanently. There is a saying, “A bird is not afraid of breaking the branch, not because it counts on the branch, but its own wings”. When there is a food crisis in the world, the question of where and how to meet your food needs is a serious problem for every country. When it comes to food, every country needs to satisfy its own citizens’ needs for food and provide their people with food safety. Climate change, population growth, increasing consumption, rapid destruction of natural areas, and plant and animal health are the greatest risks to the future.
We can not protect our world without a solution to climate change, we can not provide people with nutrition. In order for the growing population in the world to be fed according to food safety standards without poverty and hunger, all countries should focus on increasing production, reducing wastage, distributing food evenly. Besides, humankind is not the only owner of this world. It should not be forgotten that on earth there are other creatures as well.