“Türkiye has to produce wheat. The more it produces, the better. Türkiye must have enough wheat. For this, it is necessary to attract the farmer to wheat. We, as flour industrialists, have achieved this by holding the world export leadership for years. However, we are achieving this under the Inward Processing Regime (IR). My dream for Türkiye is to head up flour export with its domestic wheat. I believe we can achieve this together with our farmers.”
Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation (TFIF)
The world has been going through a challenging period in the last few years. While the consequences of the global contractions that started with the Covid-19 pandemic continue, the war between the two grain giants, Russia and Ukraine, increased geopolitical risks for the food and grain industry. However, in this difficult process, the Turkish flour industry gave a successful test. Turkish flour industrialists accelerated the exports and mobilized to ensure that people, both in our country and all over the world, have access to flour and bread, which are one of the most basic foodstuffs, at reasonable prices.
At the meeting held with the theme of “Sectoral Outlook and Expectations after the 2022 Harvest Season” hosted by the Central Anatolian Flour Industrialists’ Association, one of the associations within the structure of the Federation, the sector representatives evaluated the current situation of the sector, as well as the crises and opportunities awaiting the world and our country. At the meeting in Konya, we came together with Haluk Tezcan, Chairman of the Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation (TFIF), and we talked about the problems of the sector and listened to his solution offers.
Haluk Tezcan said that the public and private sectors have achieved great success by joining forces in favor of the industry and warned that Türkiye must increase its wheat production at any cost for the continuation of its achievements.
TFIF President said that the Turkish Grain Board (TMO) estimates that the premium support and high purchase prices for wheat this year will increase the wheat cultivation areas by 30 percent and that this would be a big step towards exporting flour with domestic production.
Speaking about the 2022 harvest season, Tezcan said that the harvest was fertile and that despite the difficulties experienced, Turkish flour industrialist, who supplied products to the domestic market without any problems, achieved a 33% increase in exports in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period of 2021.
First of all, can we get the latest information about this year’s wheat harvest from you? Are you happy with the current figures? Will Türkiye have a problem with wheat supply?
When evaluating the process, I think one should look at Türkiye’s story about wheat first. This story goes back centuries. Wheat is a legacy left to us by the Mesopotamian Plain... We have understood how critical wheat is for the world during the Covid-19 pandemic process and the subsequent Russia-Ukraine crisis that we are experiencing. Of course, we are in a process of anxiety due to the Russia-Ukraine war, which is still going on in the breadbasket of the world and we do not know what will happen. Apart from the destruction that this war will cause, it also brings reality to the concepts of food safety and food security, which we already see as a danger. Wheat stands out more than other grains in this sense.
As TFIF, we have been constantly expressing our views to the Turkish Grain Board (TMO) and the Ministry of Agriculture about not neglecting wheat, revealing its importance with special support to be given to wheat, and raising awareness among farmers on this issue. This year’s policies specific to wheat made the industrialists and farmers happy.
As you know, we had an extreme drought last year. This drought, the problems brought by the climate crisis, geopolitical risks and the Covid-19 process did not allow wheat to reach the value it deserves. This year, although the concerns we experienced last year have changed shape, we had a chance to take a deep breath thanks to our fertile harvest season and the accurate policies implemented by our government.
‘WE WILL NOT HAVE A PROBLEM IN THE SUPPLY OF WHEAT IN THE 2022-2023 SEASON’
In the meetings we held with the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and TMO in the 2022-2023 season, we saw how important wheat is, that they approach it with this understanding, and we discussed what we can do about it. TMO’s 1000 TRY premium support for the purchase price also created awareness among our farmers.
The base price given by the government for wheat this year is 6450 TRY. This was increased to 7450 TRY with TMO’s 1000 TRY premium. This showed us all how valuable a strategic product is and the extraordinary importance given to wheat. We are very happy with this move by the government and TMO and the fact that our advice was taken on this issue. This created great awareness in terms of food security and food safety in our country. This awareness has also enabled our country’s farmers to have a positive orientation towards wheat by eliminating the concerns of our farmers about the search for alternative products for the future. This gave us great hope for the future. This year, I predict that there will be a 30 percent increase in wheat cultivation areas. Moreover, if both planting and yield can be increased, wheat is brought one step forward with contracted agriculture, and the farmer is encouraged to make more production, Türkiye will no longer import wheat in the coming years. I am very happy about this.
This year, we felt that we are a self-sufficient country. That’s why TMO’s announcement that it has enough wheat in its stocks bolsters us up. There is no problem for our country at the moment. However, we continue to monitor the process without ignoring the dangers that await us.
‘MY DREAM FOR TÜRKİYE IS TO HEAD UP FLOUR EXPORT WITH ITS DOMESTIC WHEAT’
Türkiye has to produce wheat. The more it produces, the better. It doesn’t matter whether it is bought by flour or feed industrialists or other stakeholders. Türkiye must have enough wheat. For this, it is necessary to attract the farmer to wheat. We, as flour industrialists, have achieved this by holding the world export leadership for years. However, we are achieving this under the Inward Processing Regime (IR). My dream for Türkiye is to head up flour export with its domestic wheat. I believe we can achieve this together with our farmers.
Together with TMO, we managed this troublesome process very well. We, as TFIF, mobilized all the means we can with all our members, supported this step of our government, and worked on behalf of our industry in the fight against inflation. Whenever our government requested, we really showed the power of the sector in some sense.
In addition to the support of the Turkish Grain Board, we, the industry, also made some stockpiling. As you know, licensed warehousing is developing in our country. We know that our farmers also have wheat in these warehouses. Thankfully, the 2022 harvest season came with abundance and was very productive in all our regions. I do not foresee any shortages in wheat supply in the 2022-2023 season.
The Grain Corridor Deal, signed under the mediation of Türkiye, is regarded as the hope of overcoming the problems in grain supply. Why is this deal important for world food security? Could you evaluate the importance of the deal for the world and Türkiye?
The war between Russia and Ukraine, which is described as the breadbaskets of the world, unsettled many sectors, especially us, as one of the most important sections of the food industry.
In this process, the concern we experienced in reaching wheat, the main raw material of our industry, reminded us that food security and food safety are not theoretical concepts, but mean global food deprivation and the subsequent food inflation crisis. Thankfully, we successfully passed this test with the Grain Corridor Deal signed in July under the auspices of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Although the grain corridor provided some relief in prices, it has not provided a privileged price for our country for the time being. No discount applies to us. Turkish flour industrialists buy at the same price as the world. We, flour industrialists, got a chance to sell flour to the world at affordable prices. We expect to see the reflections of this great effort and energy provided by Türkiye.
But the most important point here is the contribution of this deal to humanity. Our President has really brought a different perspective here. In particular, bringing Russia and Ukraine together around the same table and getting such a good result from there not only revealed the power and importance of our country in the world but also presented a very important opportunity for world food security. The world has obtained the opportunity to access staple foods at affordable prices. I see this as a service we offered to the world. In this context, I do not look at it as a Turkish flour industrialist, but as a global flour industrialist and a human being.
You are the third-generation manager of Tezcan Un. Can you tell us about the change and transformation that your company and the industry have gone through?
We inherited our company from our great-grandfather and father. Now, if God wills, we are making an effort to hand on this legacy to our children. Indeed, our industry has reached these days through very difficult paths. Today, our leading position has a great relationship with the industry’s use of technology very closely.
In my childhood, wheat was brought to the factory by trucks and then unloaded by auger and manpower. However, the truck lift, which was invented at that time, provided great convenience to the industry. If we flour industrialists had not been able to adapt to these technologies, we would not have been this successful in flour export today. Because it was not easy to maintain a system based on human resources. Today, modern mills have improved a lot. We know how much value we add to wheat with these modern mills and how valuable we make wheat. But maybe we can’t explain it to people as it is. We, Turkish flour industrialists, produce high-quality and healthy products from wheat together with milling machinery industrialists. These flours have become more varied than you can imagine until they come to the table. In the past, when we said flour, we could think of only one kind of flour. There were very small-scale ovens. But nowadays the bakery industry has become incredible. The point Türkiye has reached in terms of the bakery has remarkably increased. The variety of products offered by the bakeries has increased a lot.
‘WE CAN MAKE SUITABLE PRODUCTS FOR EVERYONE’S RECIPE’
What is the role of the machinery and technologies used by the industry in the success achieved in flour export?
We are at a very important point in terms of technological infrastructure and hardware. Our technology has a great contribution to our leading position. We have products suitable for everyone’s recipe. We produce what each customer wants. Whether the pasta maker wants durum flour, or the biscuit maker wants flour for biscuits, we can produce all. We can produce various flours for the bakery industry. We produce different flours suitable for all kinds of ovens. We develop products appealing to the taste buds of the countries we export also considering the weather and climatic conditions.
‘WE FLOUR MANUFACTURERS REACH 7 BILLION PEOPLE’
Indeed, this success of the Turkish flour industry has actually increased the added value of our bakery products sector. If Türkiye has become one of the world’s largest pasta exporters, Turkish flour industrialists have made a very important contribution to this. Today, we contribute a lot to the feed industry, too. We, flour industrialists, produce bran, which is an important input of the feed industry. There are so many sectors that the flour industry touches. There is flour even in soups. We, flour industrialists, touch 7-7.5 billion people. Our industry produces very special products. Türkiye has a really big role in flour production. Speaking on behalf of TFIF, I think we have fulfilled this role in the best way.
From the perspective of Türkiye, the significance of wheat has become better understood in recent years. In the past, global prices were much lower than domestic prices. Therefore, with this advantage, we used to import wheat and export flour under the Inward Processing Regime (DIR). This has not only transformed the sector but also has served as an important added value for our present state.
Of course, this, in time, has disinclined our farmers from the cultivation of wheat and barley, which are their main crops. And they started to look for alternative products. For example, when we look at the Aegean Region, perennial plants have increased even more. Many wheat and barley producers in this region switched to perennial crops such as olives, grapes, and different fruit varieties. In the irrigable lands that did not switch to perennial plants, cotton generally remained in weight due to the high premiums given to cotton. There have been significant shifts from irrigable wheat fields.
But the 1000-TRY premium implemented by TMO to wheat prices this year created incredible satisfaction for the farmer. Now the planting season is coming. The farmers are receiving information about the wheat varieties that they will plant for this period. We started to witness a very serious increase in demand. If wheat planting continues like this the next year, wheat production will increase rapidly in Türkiye. I do not doubt that the increase in Türkiye’s wheat production will add incredible value to both the flour industry and the bakery products sector. Because we make many products from wheat. We not only make flour from wheat, but also pasta, biscuits, bulgur, semolina, and bakery products. The importance given to wheat in our culture is really remarkable. What gives baklava its crispiness is the exquisiteness of our wheat. I believe that the next generations will feel much more comfortable if we can tell that exquisiteness while we market it to the world correctly, and if we can explain this approach correctly to the world public opinion. Because I believe that future generations, who will be much more educated, will explain these to the world and make them more valuable. Wheat will become even more important for both Türkiye and the world. Türkiye comes to mind when wheat is mentioned. When it comes to wheat, I predict that Türkiye’s importance will continue to increase with each passing year. If we increase our cultivation areas and the amount of wheat production, we will have achieved the sustainability that we have aimed for, for a long time together with the farmer.
WE REACHED THE HIGHEST JANUARY-JUNE EXPORT FIGURE EVER
Türkiye is the world flour export champion for the last 9 years. However, about half of this export is made to neighboring Iraq. How do you see the future of the Turkish flour industry in this equation?
With the support of the government and related institutions, we, as flour industrialists, have been the export champion of the world for the last 9 years. While carrying out our product supply in the domestic market flawlessly, we increased our exports to $652 million in the first half of 2022 with a 33% increase compared to the same period of 2021 and reached the highest January-June export figure ever.
There are aspects where Türkiye is unlucky, too. Today, flour factories are being established in Iraq, a close location to Türkiye. For sure, factories are not being established only there, but also in different countries of the world. Many African markets where we sell products now impose additional customs duties. Thus, conditions are getting harder for the Turkish flour industry. For this, we have a significant role to play. We are making an effort not to lose these markets, which we have gained under challenging conditions.
Our country has great experience in human resources. Taking the wheat and producing flour from it is thought to be easy. However, we know from experience that it is not that easy. Countries that are expected to compete with us do not have the opportunity to be as successful. Iraq has tried this many times in the past. They tried Iran as an alternative to Türkiye. Türkiye tried to bring flour from different countries as well. But they couldn’t give up on our flour thanks to the value given to that product by the Turkish flour industrialists. When they don’t buy from us, they buy lower-quality products at higher prices. We have a serious fund of knowledge. If also the government supports us, we won’t lose our markets and maintain our leadership in the markets we are strong. We have to work on each country one by one. We have made promotions in many countries with the Flour Promotion Group in the past. We managed to open big markets, especially in the Philippines and Indonesia.
The Turkish flour industry won the cases before the World Trade Organization and set an example for many new industries. We are an industry that has brought billions of dollars to the country through export so far. In this sense, I believe that we, as flour industrialists, will maintain our large share of the export cake if we are given the opportunity and supported.
What will TFIF do to increase the farmer’s wheat production, including contract production?
As TFIF, we invited the managers of TAGEM (General Directorate of Agricultural Research and Policies) to the “Sectoral Outlook and Expectations after the 2022 Harvest Season” meeting, which was held under the roof of the Extended Sector Meeting of the Central Anatolian Flour Industrialists’ Association in Konya where the problems of the industry were discussed. Here, we drew attention to our country’s wheat production and varieties, mentioned the needs, advantages, and disadvantages of our producers for high-quality and efficient wheat production, and introduced the wheat they need to our industrialists.
One of the main problems of Türkiye is seed diversity. In other words, we have so much seed inflation… We do not know who is planting which seed. Different seeds are being developed every year. For my company, I work with the Aegean Agricultural Research Institute, the largest gene bank in Türkiye. We have been coming together with farmers, industrialists, and consumer associations for 25 years. We managed to develop two varieties. Unfortunately, none of them are accepted by the farmer. We are committed to giving the farmer 15 percent more than the price announced by TMO for these seeds. But unfortunately, we have difficulty encountering an organized structure among the farmers. If the contract farming system is to be established, all parties should discuss and agree on this issue and this should be supported by the law. There has to be a structure. I, as TFIF’s president, would be more than happy if I was successful in developing high-yielding wheat varieties and bringing them to the sector.
Recently, we witness that flour industrialists have increased their investments in bakery products. For example, the latest investments declared by Doruk Un and Söke Un are remarkable. How do you evaluate the flour industrialist’s investments in bakery products? Do you think these investments are related to a danger of shrinkage in world flour exports?
On the contrary, I regard it as a success of than a danger for the Turkish milling industry rather than a danger. It shows the diversity of the Turkish milling industry. A success story of the industry. The industry analyzes the world well. It diversifies Türkiye in line with the demands of the people of the world. We used to export wheat in the past. Now, we have become a flour-exporting country. Today, we are taking a similar opportunity in the feed industry as well. Therefore, I evaluate it as a development in our favor that Turkish flour industrialist produces bakery products in an attempt to export more value-added products.
Could we also get your thoughts on the education of the milling industry?
University-industry cooperation is very valuable for our sector, as it is for every sector. We need professors who can present us with contemporary perspectives from both the soil, industry and consumption aspects and hand them down to future generations. Both parties have a lot of responsibilities in developing our cooperation. In this context, I think that all of us should give more value to vocational schools of the milling industry including universities and high schools.
Do you have anything to add?
Such organizations are of great importance for the sector stakeholders and the public to come together, express the problems of the sector, offer solutions, and exchange views. With this understanding, we will hold our TFIF 17th International Congress and Exhibition, which we organize every year, this time in Antalya on February 9-12, 2023 with the theme of ‘Technological Transformations in Production and Global Risks’. I invite all the stakeholders of the industry to this great meeting where problems will be evaluated and solutions will be presented together with industry leaders.