Bulghur sector, Middle East and new markets
12 September 20138 min reading
Kayabaş: “Turkey is the sole arbiter for the exports to the Middle East. Now, the export to Iraq forms the largest share in the total bulghur export. However; due to the low purchasing power in this country, bulghur sale is realized via low profit margins. On the contrary; in the exports to Europe the profit margins are higher. If we sell our products on European market, we can make more profitable sales.”
Bulghur is one of the products whose consumption is increasing in the whole world recently. Especially its benefits in terms of health and that it can be stored for a long period make it more attractive. However; it is behind many other grain-based food products in terms of consumption.
As the world’s largest bulghur producer and exporter, Turkey conducts various activities for the promotion of bulghur in different markets. The largest export market of Turkey until today was Middle Eastern Countries. But the recent political upheavals and security problems in those countries enforce the market targets of the sector switching to other countries.
We made an interview with Sıddık Kayabaş from Günmak Makine that is one of the most important machinery suppliers about the problems in Middle Eastern market and the countries having potential for bulghur export.
Mr. Kayabaş, can you introduce your company Günmak before we talk about the latest developments in bulghur sector? What is your importance and experience in this sector?
Günmak Makine entered to the bulghur technologies sector in 1975. Realizing the machine design and sub-industry aided production, our company have become one of the important technology producers in the sector in time. Later on, we combined the cold-drawn spiral production that is developed by our own R&D researches with other productions. Our company is among the leading companies in cold-drawn spiral production that is used in many sectors.
As the company, besides machine production we prepare turnkey projects for especially bulghur and red lentil sector with our know-how and contribute to the development of the technology and systems in the sector within these projects. Constantly renewing the machine and designs proper for these systems by developing the production processes and flow diagrams in bulghur and lentil sector, our company ranks at the top in the advancement of bulghur and red lentil processing technology and factory installation.
Recently, we have successfully completed our 7th R&D project about bulghur processing. Some of the vital innovations of our R&D projects are fully automatic cooking system and semi-automatic drying system.
Besides, we have transformed lentil processing machines into very efficient and high performance machines with our own means. The inter-departmental co-ordination and also R&D projects developed in accordance with the world standards enabled Günmak to enter the foreign market.
The basic feature of this sector is that it involves in the traditional food sector. When we have look at the years when we established our company (1970s); we see that bulghur factories were generally with low capacity, inefficient and inadequate businesses. But our company has brought a boom to the sector with R&D researches.
What is the importance of bulghur in world consumption? Which areas consume wheat more?
The importance of wheat in world food consumption increases each passing day. The new name of bulghur in Far East and Europe is Turkish Rice. In Middle Eastern countries especially like Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Iraq bulghur is widely consumed.
What are the advantages of bulghur as a foodstuff? In your opinion, why and how its consumption should be extended?
The benefits of bulghur is countless so much so that doctors give it to the patients instead of medicine in USA. In the report published by “Scientific Research Institute for the Public Interest”, it is stated that bulghur has the highest nutrition value among all of the grain products and it is qualified as the golden standard of grains due to it is the most important folic acid and fiber source. We can count its important properties as follows: It replaces the number one medicine during pregnancy. It is resistant to mold formation due to the cooking and drying processes and its shelf life is longer than other products. It does not absorb radiation and it is resistant to it. Thus it is one of the products held in stock for military and civilian purposes against nuclear war in some countries.
It is one of the rare basic consumption products that defend itself against the rapidly developed technologies in our world. It lowers cholesterol. It is the most efficacious for the ones who want to lose weight. 2 table spoons of cooked bulghur is equal to 1 slice of bread in terms of calorie value. That is why bulghur is suggested to the ones with cholesterol problems instead of bread in their reducing diets. The iron (ferrum) amount in bulghur is even more than the one in spinach.
For example; as the raw material of bulghur, wheat is one of the sacred plants. In 2800 B.C. Chinese Emperor Shen Nung determined wheat that is the raw material of bulghur as one of the five sacred plants that are rice, millet, barley and soybean.
Bulghur is both an accessible foodstuff in terms of price and beneficial in terms of health as we mentioned before. The consumption of wheat is generally becoming widespread each passing day. But we can make this product a little more focus of interest by increasing the promotions, making the fair visitors taste bulghur that they haven’t tasted before. Actually we are doing and succeeding it.
How much bulghur is subjected to the world trade? What are the leading countries in bulghur export?
According to 2011 data; the export amount of bulghur was 123 thousand tons and its financial value was 70 million Dollars. The largest bulghur exporter of the world is Turkey. United States of America seems to be our most powerful competitor.
As you also mentioned before, Turkey is among the important producer and exporter of bulghur. Which countries are at the forefront of Turkey’s wheat exports? How much importance does especially Middle East that is a nearby geography have in Turkey’s bulghur export?
All of the bulghur need in our neighbor Iraq is supplied from Turkey. In the past years, other neighboring countries realized export to Iraq but today the most powerful supplier is Turkey. The most important problem in this market is the money transfer and also the safety problem due to the lack of an authoritarian government in the area. Turkish companies would continue their presence in this market in a more powerful way right after a central government in Iraq is formed.
Turkey has also the biggest share of bulghur export to the European countries. Our biggest competitor in those markets is France. Turkey is the sole arbiter for the exports to the Middle East. Now, the export to Iraq forms the largest share in the total bulghur export. However; due to the low purchasing power in this country, bulghur sale is realized via low profit margins. On the contrary; in the exports to Europe the profit margins are higher. If we sell our products on European market, we can make more profitable sales.
We cannot maintain our superiority in African continent. United States of America makes more export to the African continent more than us. Thus as Turkey; we should use our geographical advantage well and get ahead of USA.
Middle Eastern countries are the most important markets for Turkey in bulghur export like many other products. How the political problems and conflicts in the Middle East has affected the bulghur exporters and bulghur sector generally?
Let’s begin with Syria where there are conflicts right now. Our bulghur export to Syria increased 12 times in the last 3 years. However; due to the domestic disturbances and political uncertainties being experienced right now, there is a safety problem. Thus Syria will be stay in the background for the target country selection until the safety is ensured. On condition that the safety and consistency is ensured, Syria is our most important market.
Our export with Iraq is increasing continuously. Thanks to our geographical advantage and cultural similarities, our bulghur export and general export are increasing continuously. Our companies making production in Gaziantep and other regions make exports. As the safety and consistency problems in Iraq have not been solved yet, Iraq is not considered as the target market right now.
How the export losses occurred due to the problems in the Middle East market can be recovered? Which countries can be alternative markets for bulghur?
Germany is a consistent bulghur importer. Turkish population and also the Middle Eastern citizens who consume bulghur widely in Germany have an important role on this import. Besides, Belgium has a rising bulghur import volume. Especially between 2008 and 2010, the volume has increased a lot.
ETHIOPIA and NIGERIA are among our new target markets. We participate to the fairs in those countries and encounter feedbacks including serious demands after the participation.
What are your predictions for the future of wheat sector?
Bulghur sector progresses as the value of bulghur is understood each passing day. It has an important place in Russian market so much so that it is on the same level with buckwheat/grecka.
Prepared with milk in the mornings and with meat or different tastes in the afternoons and evenings, grecka is indispensable for Russian tables. The continuous demands from Ethiopia, Nigeria and America point out that bulghur will take the most important places on the shelves.
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