“Turkish millers and milling machine industry is facing a harsh competition at the moment. There are significant problems. To top it all off; I see with concern that our industry is in a dissidence which makes inroads on Turkey. It is a real pity for efforts and capital! We do not have such a luxury. It is time to be inclusive. We have to overcome these problems with joint macro projects under an inclusive roof.”
Edip H. AKTAŞ
The Miller Magazine visited a well-known and experienced figure of Turkish milling industry for its 100th issue. The Miller Magazine was hosted by Edip H. Aktaş at his office in Ankara. Aktaş, who played a pioneering role for founding Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation, has been active in the industry for 40 years. Representatives of the industry call him ‘elder brother’. He performed important tasks as Turkish Grain Board Legal Consultant, Deputy Undersecretary of Customs, Customs Councilor of Turkish Embassy in the Netherlands, Chairman of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA) which is a UN body. He is currently the General Secretary of Starch and Glucose Industrialists Association (ANGSAD), Executive Board Chairman of Turkey-Netherlands Friendship Association and also the MENA representative of VICTAM.
We discussed the situation of milling industry with a figure with a deep understanding of the sector. He made some sincere comments and significant warnings while expressing his uneasiness with breaking ranks within the sector. He stresses that Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation (TFIF) was a unifying federation when he left but the situation is different now. Aktaş calls especially TFIF for action: “It is a real pity for efforts, capital and the country. We have to be a unifying force. We have to bring different groups to a common understanding. It should necessarily be ensured as soon as possible. Policies for that should be developed.”
You can find Mr. Edip H.Aktaş’s messages for the sector below:
Mr. Aktaş, you are a wise man for the sector because of being active in it for many years and having a close understanding about the industry. Therefore, your opinions about the industry are important for us. How do you evaluate the current situation Turkish milling industry?
First of all, thank you for your kind words. Yes, it was a long journey for me starting from Turkish Grain Board legal consultancy and going on with HONLEA chairmanship and TFIF General Secretariat. I have given more or less some efforts for the industry. And so many years’ experience gives me the opportunity to be a good observer. Of course, you cherish the place on that you have given much effort.
To get back to your question: We are experiencing an ironic situation. Our flour industrialists penetrate into a certain market to export flour there. Then, our manufacturers go there and give advice to foreign flour importers: “Stop importing flour. Buy machines instead. You can create jobs and produce your own flour with the imported wheat. This strategy will enable you to cut the costs. So, there is market shrinkage for flour industrialists while machine manufacturers enjoy the expansion of their markets.
Non-governmental organizations are very important, especially for developing countries. Therefore, I encourage milling machine manufacturers to establish an association that will represent themselves. However, we have to be inclusive at this point. For instance, when we founded TFIF with Mr. Erhan Özmen, our aim was to cover all the regions of Turkey and we tried to include the Aegean region and the Eastern Anatolia region. Why? Because it should have been a federation that represents all Turkish flour industrialists. You can be a unifying force from only that perspective. Eventually, I left TFIF in 2010. And the federation had become a unifying and powerful force within 5 years.
THE INDUSTRY CANNOT SUSTAIN THIS FACTION
What I sadly observe is that: There is a faction in the flour industry, in the machine industry, and also in the fair organization sector. X supports this party and Y supports that one. What a pity! That will harm us all. Now, it is time for unity. We have to bring these groups to a common understanding because the entire industry will suffer from this disunion. The industry and the country do not have the power to sustain this faction.
Well, how can we overcome this faction? How can we have a unifier approach?
Please note that umbrella organization is TFIF and it should play its unifying role. First of all, it should reinforce its own unity under its own roof. After that, it should organize a single trade fair that will be profitable for exhibitors and organizers. I am extremely unhappy with the faction I observe.
FLOUR INDUSTRIALISTS FACE THE RISK OF LOSING THE MARKET
As important developments are going on abroad that is related to the industry, this faction means loss of energy…
Today, Turkey is the largest flour exporter. But Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan have also started to produce flour. Those were the countries that Turkey was buying wheat from most recently. On the other hand, Iraq, which was the largest exporting market for Turkish flour industrialist, is now looking towards Iran in this area. Iran has sealed the deal for buying wheat from Russia, in order to increase exports to Iraq. All those developments may cause Turkish flour industry to lose the market.
Closing the ranks is especially important now. Because there is a real risk of losing the market. Turkish flour industry is facing a harsh competition at the moment. So stakeholders should make future projections and discuss possible measures to be taken. For example, penetrating into Far East markets may be discussed. Because they have an incredible hinterland. Flour should be promoted there.
For example, China is the largest rice consumer. But they have also started to consume corn flour. Afterward, you can promote wheat flour as well. This may be a great chance for Turkish industrialists. Maybe you cannot export flour to China in short term but you can be prepared to do so when their consumption habits change. I want to give an example: I was the head of trade at Turkish Grain Board in 1987. At that time, Grain Board had 750 thousand tons of green lentils. But total volume of trade of this product was only 250 thousand tons on a global scale. So 500 thousand tons would remain unsold. What did I do? I virtually pitched tents in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to promote the product. We hulled green lentils and promoted it as “Turkish tur dal” in Australia. Australian tur dal could be cooked in 45 minutes, our lentils in 15 minutes. So we successfully marketed 750 thousand tons of green lentils.
The market is something like that. And Turkish flour industrialists are facing a significant competition and problems and they should be overcome within a common platform and by the help of common macro projects. You cannot achieve these promotions while organizing separate fairs. The world is not big enough for this.
YOU NEED TO HEAD FOR EDUCATION PROJECTS ABROAD
You should head for not only marketing and promoting, but also education aspect. Why don’t we open a milling school abroad? All of these initiatives should be managed by a single organization. So I want to call for unity in the industry via a highly symbolic 100th issue of this sectoral magazine. At this point, this matter has a media and a PR aspect, for sure. So some part of the message also falls to your share.
How do you evaluate the future of the flour industry?
Flour industry is in a consolidation period now. There were 1100 factories all over Turkey when I was the General Secretary of TUSAF. Now, this number is less than 700 and should continue to decrease to more reasonable numbers.
So, mergers and acquisitions will follow…
Of course! The healthiest method is the merger. The same applies to machine industrialists as well. There will be mergers among them, too. That is exactly what I mean. It is a real pity for efforts, capital and the country. We have to be a unifying force. It should necessarily be ensured as soon as possible. Policies for that should be developed. People who are at the forefront with their experience and knowledge should take on the responsibilities. I am making this call today and I am in sorrow. But I do believe its necessity. Because I observe a faction which harms the country. We do not have such a luxury. We have to perform activities that benefit our country and the nation. Making projections and realizing the plans can only be achieved in unity.