Turkish milling industry targets $5b exports, focuses on African markets in 2024

17 January 20248 min reading

Amid global economic uncertainties, geopolitical strains and transformational waves of technology, Turkey’s flour milling sector stands resilient and poised for further expansion. In an exclusive interview with Miller Magazine, Zeki Demirtaşoğlu, President of The Association of Turkish Milling and Sector Machinery Manufacturers (DESMUD), unveils the secrets behind the sector’s enduring strength and the strategic vision steering Turkey’s flour milling powerhouse towards a record-breaking $5 billion in exports by the end of 2024.

Zeki Demirtaşoğlu
President of The Association of Turkish Milling
and Sector Machinery Manufacturers (DESMUD)

The Turkish flour milling sector continues to thrive amidst economic challenges, wars, and geopolitical tensions. Despite global economic tightening and conflicts, the Turkish milling sector exceeded expectations in 2023, reaching over $3.5 billion in exports. Looking ahead to 2024, the Turkish milling sector anticipates reaching $5 billion in exports. The spotlight is on Africa and Latin America as key target markets.

In an interview with Miller Magazine, Zeki Demirtaşoğlu, President of The Association of Turkish Milling and Sector Machinery Manufacturers (DESMUD), he shared valuable insights into the sector’s resilience and promising future. Demirtaşoğlu’s insights provide a comprehensive overview of Turkey’s flourishing milling machinery sector and its commitment to sustainable practices on the global stage.

How would you describe the current state of the milling  machinery sector in Turkey? 

The Turkish milling sector is the export leader in the world and has maintained this position for many years. We predict that this sector, in which about 300 large and small companies operate in Turkey, will maintain its leadership in the world in the coming years thanks to its competitiveness in costs and its superior performance in quality and service.

How was the overall performance of the sector in 2023?  Can you share the important achievements that stand out in 2023?

The Turkish milling sector concluded 2022 with exports amounting to 3.43 billion dollars and managed to exceed 3.5 billion dollars in 2023. Although precise figures are not available yet, this achievement is remarkable, considering the global economic tightening and conflicts during this period. We firmly believe that our industry will break a historical record by reaching the target of 5 billion dollars by the end of 2024. The milling sector continues to achieve significant successes in every field from storage, transport and unloading, grinding, sifting to automation, weighing and laboratory systems. The largest capacity flour, feed, starch and coffee factories in the world are established by Turkish milling machinery manufacturers. All of these facilities, where Industry 4.0 is used from storage operations to transport, grinding, sieving and automation systems, are operated by Turkish technicians.

What are the key challenges and opportunities that the sector is currently facing?

In a period of economic tightening in the world, states do not want to send the foreign currency they hold out of the country. For this reason, the Turkish milling machinery sector, which sells 94-97% of its production abroad, is experiencing difficulties in accessing loans for large investments to be made abroad, turning loans into cash and getting this cash out of the foreign country and coming to Turkey. For these reasons, unfortunately, many projects in the world have been postponed or some of them have been cancelled. These difficulties continue in a similar manner in all the countries we export to.

The pandemic that gripped the world for almost 3 years...Then the Russia-Ukraine war that broke out right on our doorstep...And finally the escalating tension in the Middle East. How was the sector affected by these global and geopolitical developments?

We expect the economic tightening model, which started in the USA and spread to the world, to come to an end in the third and fourth quarters of 2024. Therefore, the Turkish milling sector continues to prepare for the new period by strengthening its stocks. Our companies also continue the projects in their hands. Almost all of our milling machinery manufacturers have orders and projects for 1-1.5 years. In the third and fourth quarters of 2024, they aim to fulfil their factory production capacities for at least two years with orders for 2025 and 2026 by receiving new and strong orders.

The pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and the rising tension in the Middle East...All these have revealed how important access and accessibility to food and raw materials is, and brought food safety and security to the forefront. This process has also increased the importance of the milling sector, which processes food into semi-finished and finished products, all over the world. In this sense, especially the interest in our members producing grain storage and handling systems has increased worldwide. In addition, the demand for milling machines, which play an important role in meeting the nutritional needs of people, has been more than expected and there has been an increase in capacity. For this reason, it is necessary to increase the stock quantities against possible war, health and other crises that humanity may face in the coming years. Since the need for the main production items of our sector such as flour and feed will also increase, a significant increase in demand is expected in the sector, especially starting from the second half of 20

What do you think are the main trends shaping the milling industry in the world? What role does technology play in the transformation of the sector? 

Göbeklitepe in Şanlıurfa shows that Anatolia was the place where the first wheat and the first flour were produced. This geography, where milling first emerged, is proud to pioneer this critically important industry. Our industry, which is experiencing its golden period, has become a sector that uses Industry 4.0 and benefits from all the capabilities of technology. In the factories we have established, 600,000 kg of flour can be produced, packaged and loaded daily with six personnel, which can be called almost human-less. This reveals the sector’s compatibility with technology. Since the competitors in the world are in Japan, Germany, Italy and China, it has become obligatory to be at harmony with technology and to be able to use the latest capabilities of technology in this competitive atmosphere.

Sustainability incentives and environmental concerns are increasing in the world. All industries are working and developing projects in this direction. How does the Turkish milling machinery sector adapt to this trend? What should be done to encourage sustainable practices in the sector?

Our industry is making serious investments to reduce its carbon footprint by obtaining the energy it needs in its production facilities from green energy sources. New renewable energy investments are being put into operation every day. We think that the sector’s interest in green energy sources will increase day by day.

Looking ahead to 2024, what are the industry’s main projections and expectations for growth? Are there any specific markets or regions where you expect significant developments in the coming year?

Our industry, which exported 3.5 billion dollars in 2023, will reach 5 billion dollars in 2024. In this sense, Africa, which attracts the attention and interest of Turkish milling machinery manufacturers and the world, is among the serious target markets of our sector in the new year. In addition, the need for milling machines in Latin America has also increased significantly. This region is a serious potential market for our sector. Apart from this, the Turkic republics, Asia and the Middle East, which we always export strongly, are the markets we are constantly working in. We anticipate that our export volume will continue to increase in all these markets.

What is your long-term vision for the Turkish milling machinery industry on a global scale? How does DESMUD plan to contribute to this vision?

DESMÜD is one of the most powerful associations in the world, which brings together Turkish milling sector machinery manufacturers, puts forward policies in line with the needs of its members with the logic of ‘strength comes from unity’, and operates to meet these needs. We think that we are one of the handful of associations in the world whose members’ annual exports reach 3.5 billion dollars. Therefore, we believe that our valuable association will continue to receive support from both the sector and the state in the coming years. In particular, our greatest need for the growth of the sector and the continuation of its leadership in the world is to meet our need for trained blue-collar and white-collar personnel. In this sense, in 2017, we opened milling departments in vocational high schools in 3 cities and a centre of excellence in Ankara in accordance with the protocol signed with the Turkish Ministry of National Education.  This year, as a result of our negotiations with Higher Education Council (YÖK), we plan to open a two-year vocational school and master’s degree programmes to meet our blue and white collar personnel needs in an era when the interest in milling is increasing every year. We are also planning to build an international course centre in Ankara. By providing certified courses to millers from different countries of the world in certain periods, we aim to meet the technical personnel needs of the factories we have established in the world.

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