Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Nut purchaser to decide on new president
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Current President Salih Erdem defended the policies of the embattled hazelnut purchaser, which has failed to repay its debts to producers ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Salih Erdem, chairman of the Hazelnut Growers' Union (Fiskobirlik) executive board, speaking at an extraordinary board meeting held on Tuesday, accused certain circles of “having lobbied to create a thornless rose garden by excluding Fiskobirlik.”
The extraordinary assembly convened with 430 members to vote in a new chairman. Erdem and Ordu General Manager Yaşar Pamuk were the only candidates.
Fiskobirlik, a cooperative that buys and markets hazelnuts, has not been able to repay its debts to producers and has come under harsh criticism from the government and hazelnut producers as prices have tumbled. In his speech, Erdem blamed exporters and European businesses for having lobbied to push down prices and keep Fiskobirlik out of the loop.
Erdem said Fiskobirlik had done its best to repay debts to hazelnut growers and that in the past it had protected producers by purchasing hazelnuts. “Both the nut growers and the Treasury earned money. [This year] they did not let us take loans [to purchase hazelnuts], despite our being the only union which has paid its debts to the Supporting Price Stability Fund,” complained Erdem.
Hazelnut growers also had to share some of the blame, he added. This season they sold too many nuts on account hoping that they might later be able to negotiate higher prices. Some producers gave their nuts to merchants temporarily free-of-charge when prices were YTL 6-7 per kilogram but then later had to accept YTL 3-4. The situation was a result of “pressures being applied and efforts to bring down hazelnut prices,” Erdem explained.
Errors in hazelnut-yield estimates for 2006 were of an unprecedented scale, added Erdem. Fiskobirlik had estimated a 483-thousand-ton yield, while exporters expected at least 520 thousand tons, and this was another factor that prevented Fiskobirlik from selling its hazelnut stock to repay debts, claimed Erdem. The actual figure will be closer to 650 million tons.
Recalling that the Agricultural Products Office (TMO) had recently been assigned to purchase excess produce, Erdem said that Fiskobirlik had hoped to sell its stock to the TMO and pay back its debts, but that had not been possible due to the low price fixed by the TMO.
The TMO recently announced the purchase price of hazelnuts as YTL 4, with producers criticizing the figure as too low.
In reply to criticism directed at Fiskobirlik, Erdem said that the company had gone from 299th on the list of Turkey's biggest businesses, to 150th 2005 and 77th in 2006. “We would have made it to the 25th place had we been able to pay back our debts,” Erdem said, asking his critics “Do you call this a failure?”
Erdem said that Fiskobirlik's high purchasing prices in the past three years had caused disturbance among European companies and their collaborators at home. “They constantly lobbied to push down hazelnut prices. This is what is happening today,” Erdem elaborated.
Fiskobirlik might be forced to sell some of its assets in order to repay its debts, said Erdem, and expressed hope that Fiskobirlik would leave financial difficulties behind as soon as possible.