Women collective gets support from FAO for local food products
Engin Esen - ISTANBUL
A woman collective in the eastern Black Sea province of Giresun has taken support from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to produce hazelnut products, jam and cornflour using heirloom seeds.
The cooperative initiative founded by eight cousins is named Ortakbahçe, which means common orchard in Turkish.
“It is very valuable for us to take part in the agricultural practices works organized jointly by Bahçeşehir University and the FAO,” Hale Çerkezoğlu Altundaş, a co-founder of the collective, told Hürriyet Daily News.
“Now, we are aiming to provide support to our village and the region by establishing an agricultural development cooperative,” she added.
As the region is known for high-quality hazelnut varieties, the collective usually gets roasted hazelnut, macaron, hazelnut paste and hazelnut cookie orders from big cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir.
They also produce fruit jam, grape molasse, vinegar and cornflour using heirloom seeds.
“We are working in groups. We manage all the processes with social media, logistics, packaging, sewing, production and project departments. In the meantime, we have been creating a corporate structure. Through establishing a cooperative, we are aiming at expanding our departments and growing with sales to foreign countries,” Altundaş said.
“We have been more engaged with farming during the pandemic, and we have decided to share the output with people. Everybody has the right to get clean food produced through natural farming. In this sense, we want to be a bridge. We deliver our products without any intermediaries.”
The initiative is also in contact with the hazelnut processing and sales cooperatives union, Fiskobirlik, to use geographical indications for their products.
With a market share of over 60 percent in global hazelnut sales, Turkey’s hazelnut exports totaled 231,595 tons in the first nine months of the export season.
The figure was down 21.1 percent from the same period in the last season, the Black Sea Hazelnut and Hazelnut Products Exporters’ Union said.
Hazelnut exports earned Turkey $1.6 billion from last September to this May, a 17.4 percent drop year-on-year.
Some 44 percent of the country’s hazelnut exports were processed products worth $708.2 million, while the rest were raw hazelnuts.
The EU remained the top export market for Turkish hazelnut with 166,099 tons in the first nine months of this season, which starts in September and ends in May.
“Strengthening women means creating a world full of peace and happiness for everyone,” Ayşegül Selışık, the assistant FAO representative in Turkey, said during a workshop event in Giresun’s district of Piraziz last week.
“We have to provide utmost support to local producers and small family entrepreneurship here. Giresun has some of the best examples for them. There are large hazelnut groves and tea orchards here, but there are also local products put on the market by small farms. We will provide information and presentations to support them in marketing successfully,” she added at the opening of the two-day event on June 29.
Viorel Gutu, the FAO representative in Turkey and subregional coordinator for Central Asia, and Alvaro Rodriguez, the U.N.’s residing coordinator in Turkey, also attended the event.