The recent catastrophic earthquakes in February this year have added to the already fragile economy of Turkiye. The immense damage inflicted on the nation’s agricultural sector – a vital business area – could be the tipping point for an economic crisis. As the cropping season approaches rapidly, farmers in the earthquake-affected area need expedited aid to avert potential food deficits throughout the country.
Inflation has long been a persistent issue in Turkey. The Turkish Statistical Institute (TSI) found that Turkiye’s yearly inflation rate for January 2023 was 57 percent. In contrast, the Economic National Analysis Group (ENAG), a non-governmental research institute, estimated it to be 121 percent. Experts predicted that inflation would decrease before the elections in May; however, this now appears to be an improbable event.
The approximate $25 billion worth of losses incurred in production due to the earthquake is estimated to act as an impetus to the inflationary cycle, particularly concerning foodstuff prices.
The adverse effects of the calamity on the food sector have already been identified. Within seven days of the seismic activity, the cost of beef significantly increased in the aftermath of the devastation inflicted upon the area’s abattoirs. The supplies were detrimentally impacted, as the most seriously affected provinces comprise 12 percent of Turkiye’s bovine industry. Since the start of the year, the price of one kilogram of meat has increased drastically, reaching approximately 180 lira, equivalent to US$9.49, representing an increase of close to forty percent.
The 11 provinces affected by the earthquakes are integral to sustaining the nation. They constitute 15.5% of Turkiye’s agricultural output, generating more than 85 billion lira. Approximately one-fifth of the total is comprised of vegetables. Turkey’s registered farmers comprise over 13% of the nation’s total. They are mainly situated in this region, where villages that have suffered destruction are still cut off from external assistance.
It has been observed that the prices of other foodstuffs have been steadily rising. In February, there was a 7% increment in the food basket, with vegetables increasing by 24% and fruits rising by 10%. It is foreseeable that foodstuff inflation will persist, mainly if agricultural production in areas affected by earthquakes does not revive speedily.
Some farmers have been reimbursed for the damages they have incurred. Since the disaster, Turkey’s Agricultural Insurance Pool has disbursed 11 million lira in indemnity payments. Approximately 20% of Turkish farmers have insurance; however, most of the agrarian population responsible for food for the nation have no insurance, thus requiring them to rely on limited government subsidies for production.
Turkey’s arable land is expeditiously sown with millet, rice, soybeans, and sunflower. To meet the expectations associated with the seasonal calendar and prevent the country from facing a food crisis, growers should be provided with assistance in acquiring seeds, fertilizers, and diesel fuel. Turkiye’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has declared that it will dispense a financial aid package of 2.8 billion lira to registered farmers who have endured damage caused by the earthquake.
To meet the expectations associated with the seasonal calendar and prevent the country from facing a food crisis, growers should be provided with assistance in acquiring seeds, fertilizers, and diesel fuel.
Despite the potential for fulfilling these pledges, the labor status is yet to be ascertained. What strategies could encourage those displaced from their homes, separated from their families, and estranged from their friends to resume work and cultivate the land?
The workforce deficiency is one of the principal impediments to the advancement of Turkey’s agricultural sector. In Hatay province, approximately 100,000 tons of lemons were projected to export for an estimated $186 million in 2022; however, those lemons remain on trees with no one to harvest them. An additional 300,000 tons stay in storage, awaiting to be allocated. The time sensitivity of the agriculture industry necessitates rapidly diminishing the time window for harvesting fruit and planting vegetables. Therefore, Turkiye’s government must develop an action plan immediately.
Regrettably, Ankara appears to be incapable of fulfilling its responsibilities. At present, the government is making strenuous efforts to extricate itself. The United Nations Development Program has determined that the number of debris created by the collapse of thousands of edifices due to the earthquakes was estimated to be a maximum of 210 million tonnes, a record-breaking amount of rubble for a single catastrophe. In comparison, the 1999 Marmara Earthquake registered a release of 13 million tons.
Removing the debris is a contentious issue for the nation’s authorities. The Turkish population has expressed deep concern about the visuals shared online, which depict garbage being disposed into water bodies and along shorelines, a practice that could potentially cause irreversible environmental detriment. An image that has been widely disseminated shows a considerable aggregation of refuse that has accumulated on the shoreline of Hatay, the habitat of turtles and over 300 distinct avian species. A video originating from a rural locality in Gaziantep depicts detritus being disposed of into tanks of water that rural cultivators employ for raising their livestock.
Turkiye is presently undergoing an extraordinary renewal. According to a recent report by the World Bank, the earthquake’s physical devastation was worth $34.2 billion, corresponding to approximately 4% of Turkiye’s 2021 gross domestic product. The costs associated with rebuilding could be twice the initial value or even higher. Louisa Vinton, the UN Development Program’s representative in Turkey, declared that the damage inflicted exceeded one hundred billion US dollars.
The extent to which Turkiye’s agricultural network could feasibly be made earthquake-proof is questionable; however, how the government responds to the current situation is likely to have a considerable impact on the defense of the agricultural sector from further disasters. If the necessities of farmers are not met, it can result in long-term food insecurity problems. Turkiye has the potential to avert an additional economic crisis, yet to do so, a comprehensive and durable rural economy infrastructure plan must be adopted to ensure the maintenance of rural employment and the nation’s food supply.
The writer works as a researcher with the Arms Control and Disarmament Center at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and writes regularly for several national and international news outlets. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org