Why the Milan Protocol is important for Turkey
World pasta giant Barilla has been pondering for some time on topics like healthy nutrition and sustainable agriculture. The company formed the “Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition” (BCFN) about six years ago gathering scientists, academic and nongovernmental organizations under its umbrella.
Figures such as Carlo Petrini, one of the founders of Slow Food, and Head of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee of the European Parliament Paolo De Castro are in the executive committee of the “Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition.”
Recently, I attended the international Forum on Food and Nutrition held in Milan every year organized by the BCFN.
There was also the “Milan Protocol” which would be open to signature to all the participants of Expo 2015 to be held in Milan. Inspired by the Kyoto Protocol, the Milan Protocol essentially has three main objectives: To reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2020, to promote healthy lifestyles and to promote sustainable agriculture.
Now, let us look at why the Milan Protocol is important for Turkey, particularly in terms of sustainable agriculture. On my return from Italy, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting in Ankara where the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) met with farmers, explaining their agriculture politics.
The quite colorful meeting, where farmers from all over Turkey took the stage and also the headman of the Yırca village, where 6,000 olive trees were recently chopped, took the floor, started with Ankara deputy Gökhan Günaydın’s presentation.
He emphasized that with food prices in the world involved in a rising trend, the strategic importance of the agriculture sector is increasing.
Thus, the United Nations has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. As a matter of fact, the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) presented its Competitiveness in Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry report last week. Certain experts have criticized TÜSİAD’s report because it did not mention the “high costs.” While this report revealed the business world’s opinion of agriculture, Günaydın’s presentation was the CHP’s Agriculture Program, revealing the state of agriculture in Turkey. It is not a very bright picture.
Over the past 12 years, Turkey has given up cultivating land twice the size of the region of Thrace. Because of the price policies adopted, farmers do not consider planting wheat a profitable business. While in 2002, wheat was planted in areas totaling 93 million decares; today this figure is 78 million.
When it is such, Turkey has imported 31 million tons of wheat in 12 years, paying 20 billion Turkish Liras for them.
Just like wheat, corn, cotton, soy, even legumes are among those imported products. So are live animals.
Based on Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) data, Günaydın said in the past 12 years, 267 billion liras have been spent in agriculture and food imports. The government’s support for agriculture in the same period has been only 59 billion liras.
Almost 4.5 times the agricultural support has gone to imports.
There is also such a reality: Even though Turkey is the world leader in products such as hazelnut and dried apricot (80 percent of world hazelnut production is done in Turkey) because it cannot market its goods in world markets, it does not make a huge profits, thus the farmers are not content.
Well, what does the opposition party suggest to break the vicious circle of “high cost, low production?” Things like lowering the costs by making diesel contribution to farmers, to multiply the agriculture budget by four and make agricultural research and development investments.
If one day the CHP manages to take power, will it practice the agricultural policies it has talked about, I do not know.
If the ruling party Justice and Development Party (AKP) adopts the Milan Protocol as its guide, it may be possible to change certain things in the picture.