Turkish exporters seek retaliation against Moscow's limits to tomato imports
Güneş Kömürcüler - ANTALYA
Turkish exporters are once again preparing to request a limitation on grain, sunflower and corn imports from Russia on the basis of reciprocity, after Moscow announced it would import tomatoes from only four companies on an annual basis, the head of the exporter’s assembly stated late on Oct. 23.
Russia will allow imports of 50,000 tons of Turkish tomatoes from Nov. 1, one month earlier than originally planned, on the condition that the imports issue from just four companies, which are as yet unknown to Turkish exporters.
Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) President Mehmet Büyükekşi said this move was against international trade rules as well as competition rules.
“All Turkish exporters are against the Russian decision to import tomatoes from only four companies. In this regard, we are preparing to ask for similar restrictions on Turkey’s grain, sunflower and corn imports from Russia on the basis of reciprocity,” he told a group of journalists on the sidelines of the Turkey-Russia Media Forum in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya.
Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci announced on Oct. 22 that Russia lifted all restrictions on agricultural imports from Turkey, which were placed in November 2015 in the wake of a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, adding that Turkey was, however, against some of the Russian moves, which it found “unsustainable.”
“There are not any agricultural products that are restricted for Russia to import now. There are however some steps, for which we have repeatedly voiced our opposition to our Russian counterparts,” he said.
The most crucial move is Russian’s decision to import tomatoes from only four companies despite the existence of more than 1,000 Turkish tomato exporters, Zeybekci said, adding that this was not sustainable for Turkey and the authorities faced serious pressure from exporters.
Amid talks over the tomato issue, Turkey imposed a requirement for additional approval of Russian agricultural supplies by the Turkish authorities earlier in October.
Meanwhile, Russia has accelerated its works to give a boost to its domestic tomato production. A number of Turkish agricultural investors have gone into the Russian market to launch greenhouses, to make production and to transfer their know-how to Russian producers.
Büyükekşi noted that they expected to reach fruitful results from the two countries’ negotiations, adding that both countries’ total trade volume target was $100 billion, which was now even under $20 billion.
According to TİM’s latest exporters expectations survey, Russia has again become the top market to which Turkish exporters want to be in, followed by Qatar and Germany, he added.
Turkey’s exports to Russia reached all-time highs in 2013 with $7 billion, Büyükekşi said, adding that however, this decreased almost half at $3.6 billion in 2015, mainly due to an economic crisis in Russia.
“Our exports to Russia slumped to $1.7 billion due to the jet crisis. We will likely close this year at around $2.6 billion or $2.7 billion this year; namely, we are still far away from our best year figures,” he added.
No negative impact of row with EU on imports so far
Regarding Turkey’s recent row with the European Union, Büyükekşi voiced their hope about toning down the discourse between the two sides and praised some recent constructive announcements from the EU side, adding that so far, there was not any negative impact of Turkey’s trade ties with the bloc and it would take a couple of years to witness a dramatic plunge, especially in automotive exports unless relations improved.
“In the first nine months of the year, our exports to the EU and Germany rose nearly 10 percent for each. We expect to close the year at these rates,” he said, adding that the automotive sector specifically would likely post a nearly 40 percent growth in exports and the sector has made 70 percent of its exports to the EU.
Büyükekşi also noted that Turkish exporters were in search of new routes to maintain their business in Iraq following the block on entering the country from the northern side after a controversial referendum was held by the Iraqi Kurds.
He added that Turkey makes 70 percent of its exports to southern Iraq and only 30 percent to the north.