Who can help us meet our agriculture targets set for 2022?
Some key points from the “2018-2020 Strategic Plan” laid out by the Agriculture Ministry include creating an agriculture sector with strong international competitive advantages, supporting rural development and supporting domestic production and local breeding in order to meet local demands.
I have gone through the document. We had similar targets in the previous strategic plan that covered the period from 2013-2017. I do not know how many of those targets were met over the past five years, but I do know each consecutive plan sets out similar targets and strategies. It does not matter if we continue to set out the same targets for each five-year strategic plan, not only in order to become a self-sufficient country in terms of agricultural output but also to become an exporter of agricultural products. No matter what, let’s maintain these targets until they are met. What really matters is with whom we can achieve those targets. Please note that I am not asking how we can achieve those targets but with whom.
Small producers vanishing
Let me explain why I am stressing this point. From the first of the so-called agriculture meetings held in Aydın, which we launched together with Denizbank, I have observed that in both agricultural production and animal breeding, large farmers dominate the industry. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against industrialists or large land owners investing in agriculture. On the contrary, I support such investments. However, we should not let small farmers vanish.
Just take a look at European countries with advanced agriculture and animal breeding sectors. Such strong industries have only been made possible with the help of breeders who have 50 to 100 animals and small farmers who have 50 to 100 acres of land plots. And those countries have maintained this structure over the years. However, here in our country, small farmers are disappearing by the day. What will happen when they disappear? The disappearance of small farmers triggers migration to larger cities, hampers rural development and as a result, causes productivity to decline. The result: Some 20 years ago we used to say that “being self-sufficient was not enough,” but now we say “God willing, we will stop importing agricultural products and become self-sufficient again.”
There is no need to come up with long-term plans or spend considerable time to think over those issues. The first thing to be done is to provide a breeder with 50 animals with another 50 animals and to give a farmer with 40 acres of land another 40 acres of land and to support them in order to increase productivity, grow good quality products in a well-planned manner. Also, it is crucial to help farmers have access to sustainable and cheap financing. This is the problem with that. In the past, only public banks and the Agricultural Credit Cooperatives used to extend loans to the agriculture sector. Today, private banks also provide credit. The volume of loans extended by private banks to the agriculture sector has exceeded 90 billion Turkish Liras.
All I would like to say is, if we want to achieve something in agriculture and animal breeding, we must do that together with small and medium-sized companies.