TMO starts surplus hazelnut purchases
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Agriculture Minister Mehmet Mehdi Eker and Energy Minister Hilmi Güler officially started the purchase of excess hazelnuts from producers on Monday at a ceremony in Giresun's Bulancak region.
Eker, speaking to journalists, said their efforts were aimed at addressing the problems of hazelnut growers. He said the growers would receive half of their money when their hazelnuts were bought and the remainder15 days later.
He said he believed the Agricultural Products Office (TMO) would do a good job, noting that the 50 TMO centers around the country would be open to receive the produce.
No limit would placed on the sale of excess hazelnuts because the TMO purchase was aimed at alleviating the problems faced by producers, Eker assured producers. He said the TMO had found the necessary funds for the purchase, allowing the state to pay for the surplus.
Despite the minister's assurances the TMO center in Ordu failed to start its purchases on Monday, with officials arguing that the depot they would be using was undergoing renovation. Producers were told to come to the office with documentation only to get an appointment to bring in their produce.
Many producers had brought their hazelnuts to the center in trucks and were disappointed, with some arguing with officials about who will be paying for their losses due to delays.
The hazelnut problem:
Hazelnut growers are up in arms over the Hazelnut Growers' Union's (Fiskobirlik) failure to pay them on time and the huge hazelnut surplus that has adversely affected prices. On July 10 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismissed complaints made to him by a hazelnut grower and told him to address his grievances to Fiskobirlik. He said the government had advised Fiskobirlik to sell hazelnuts when the price was high and that its failure to do so had resulted in the current problem. Fiskobirlik still owes YTL 125 million to the growers and argues that its requests for loans have been rejected by both state and private banks. It has called for an emergency meeting, to be held today, to address the current deadlock. Until 2003 Fiskobirlik was state run; it purchased excess hazelnut production and recorded an average annual loss of YTL 100 million. After 2003 the union became autonomous and state assistance stopped.
Turkey's annual hazelnut consumption is around 70,000 tons. It exports between 400,000 and 450,000 tons, almost 80 percent of global consumption, making it the world leader in hazelnut production. In 2005 it exported hazelnuts to 50 nations, netting more than $1.5 billion (1.17 billion euros) for the state coffers.
This year growers will produce around 650,000 tons of hazelnuts, a figure considerably in excess of current demand. Efforts are under way to increase domestic consumption to 100,000 tons per annum.
More than 2 million people in the Black Sea region make their living from hazelnuts, and the plunge in prices is having major social consequences, with smaller growers facing huge debts and even financial ruin. Losses are estimated at $2.5 billion across the industry, experts say.
In July between 100,000 and 150,000 protesters took to the streets of Ordu on the Black Sea, in the hazelnut heartland of northern Turkey, to protest government policy. Industry representatives warn there is more trouble in store unless something is done.
The president of the influential Ankara Chamber of Commerce, Sinan Aygun, called for a “mobilization” to prevent the crisis from causing social problems in hazelnut-producing areas. His organization decided to distribute nuts to schools to get rid of overproduction. “Hazelnuts are the cornerstone of the Turkish economy,” he said, calling on Turks to eat more of the “national” food.
The TMO recently announced the purchase price of hazelnuts as YTL 4, with producers criticizing the figure as too low.
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