Turkish industry minister says new draft law will not harm olive trees

Turkish industry minister says new draft law will not harm olive trees

DÜZCE/ANKARA - Doğan News Agency
Turkish industry minister says new draft law will not harm olive trees Science, Industry and Technology Minister Faruk Özlü has vowed that he would withdraw a controversial draft on olive trees if it “harmed even one olive tree.” 

“If I know that even one olive tree is going to be cut down because of this law, I will withdraw it,” he said in the northwestern province of Düzce on June 4. 

Amid heated debates in parliament by opposition parties and olive producers, the government late on May 31 withdrew a motion that called for the delisting of groves of one decare and those with fewer than 15 olive trees as “olive groves.”

As the draft regulation still left out restrictions on industrial and mining facilities in such areas, the opposition parties and olive producers strongly objected to the move.

A parliament commission decided to establish an “Olive Grove Preservation Board” to supervise investments on olive oil groves and prepare reports on investment demands. Other articles ban accommodation and tourism facilities from being built on olive groves, and the draft law includes a provision for industrial investments including mining. 

“We planted more than 71 million olive trees in the last 14 years. When we first took the rule, there were nearly 100 million olive trees across Turkey. This has now increased up to 171 million,” said Özlü. 

“Why should we destroy them? There will be no harm on olive groves,” he added.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also joined the debate on the draft law in a meeting on June 3. 

“Sometimes de facto situations arise. There are facilities which are constructed on former olive groves. The situation of those facilities has to be legalized. If that grove is on an industrial construction site, if there is no possibility to engage in olive agriculture, the regulation allows industry to use the fields it needs,” Yıldırım said, criticizing the objections and stating that the board would pave the way for the further industrialization of olive grove zones.

“It has been presented as if olive groves are being razed for construction. That is wrong. Those who do not want Turkey to gain competitive power are engaging in this manipulation,” he said.

“They are presenting it in such a way that it is as if we destroyed olive groves. Compared to 2002, olive groves have grown, the olive production has been raised to make Turkey second in Europe [in terms of production],” he added.