Dark days are on the horizon for the Turkish hazelnut

Dark days are on the horizon for the Turkish hazelnut

I am in Giresun where the best quality Turkish hazelnuts are produced. It is one of the provinces with the Black Sea’s most spectacular nature. Next to the small and beautiful houses in the mountains and valleys, the city center is full of multi-story buildings without any architectural identity.

In fact, even skyscrapers have started to arise near the mountains. It is obvious the city is in the midst of an unplanned urban growth.

Along with an invitation from the Mutfak Dostları Derneği, which can be roughly translated as the Friends of the Kitchen Association, we have arrived for the Hazelnut Harvest Tour. There seems to be a movement in Giresun’s tourism sector.

Since it is harvest time, the only topic in the city is hazelnut. Hazelnuts top the agenda, not only in Giresun, but also in the entire Black Sea.

The hazelnut is an agricultural product of which Turkey has a monopoly of. Sixty percent of the world’s consumption is produced in Turkey. We are a leader in terms of production quantity but unfortunately, we still do not have a say in policymaking.

Hazelnut is a product I have been monitoring for years. The topics of discussion never change. The tradition continues this year as well. Even though it is not announced officially, the harvest is 560,000 tons according to the Agriculture Ministry, whereas it is 643,000 tons according to exporters. The amount of the harvest obviously affects the prices.

According to farmers, since the cost is no less than 10 Turkish Liras, the purchasing price should not be less than 15 liras. On the other hand, although exporters have not declared it, they want the price to be around 11.5 liras.

Since Fiskobirlik (the hazelnut union) has lost its influence, while the Turkish Grain Board has only limited influence, there is no institution to function as a market maker. This is the main focus of the discussion.

All eyes in the region are on Ferrero, which has made the biggest purchase in the region for the past five years through the company Oltan Gıda.

I asked Giresun Commodity Exchange President Yaşar İbaş about the hazelnut situation. He said it should not be sold for lower than 15 liras. These are his arguments:

“The producers are right to ask for this price because the cost is not less than 10 liras. Futhermore, if we are to look from the perspective of dollars, 15 liras makes around 3 dollars. The inflation adjusted price is even less than last year. Buyers are gaining dollars and euros.”

I asked İbaş why we cannot be a policymaker even though we are a leader in the hazelnut industry.

This was İbaş’s response:

“There is no ownership over hazelnuts. We were unable to set policies in production and marketing. Our salvation lies in having licensed warehouses. Price stability is in the interest of both producers and buyers. But we are too late.”

Meanwhile, I reminded him about the deterioration in the global perception of Turkish hazelnuts due to the mistaken use of pesticides and diseases and asked him what needs to be done.

According to his advice:

“As a producer, trader and exporter, all we do is save the day. We do not have the right agricultural policies. The producers are not taking care of their gardens. No solution is found to certain diseases. The Agriculture Ministry has to focus on this issue. Otherwise, there are bad days ahead for Turkish hazelnuts.”

jale özgentürk, hazelnut, giresun, Ferrero, Fiskobirlik