Cablegate: New Approach at Ministry of Agriculture?

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: New Approach at Ministry of Agriculture?

Ref:(A) 2002 Ankara 9192 (B) 2003 Ankara 441 (C)Ankara 1035

This message is sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet

1. (SBU) Summary. Since his appointment as the new
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in November, Sami
Goclu appears more willing than his predecessors to engage
agriculture businesses and seek their input on important
issues. Moreover, many officials believe Goclu will
delegate greater authority to his subordinates which should
facilitate work with the Ministry. At the same time, the
Ministry will most likely pursue a policy of self-
sufficiency and market protection against agriculture
imports. End summary.

An Economist from Konya

2. (SBU) Professor Sami Guclu (pronounced Goochlu) was
named the new Turkish Minister of Agriculture in November
2002. He was born in the Konya region, the breadbasket of
Turkey. An economist by training, Minister Gulu most
recently was with the faculty at Sakarya University in the
Black-Sea city, Adapazar. He worked at the university with
the current Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul. Although he has
only held his position for the past four months, there are
signs that the Ministry may break from past practices.

Cautiously Optimistic

3. (SBU) Turkish industry reaction might be characterized
as cautiously optimistic. However, this may in part be a
reaction to the previous Minister of Agriculture, Husnu
Gokalp, who showed little trust in the private sector. One
concern that industry officials noted was Minister Guclu's
lack of agricultural background. Although he worked for a
short time in the Agriculture Supply Organization at the
Ministry of Agriculture, the majority of his experience has
been in academics and in economics rather than agriculture.
One industry contact noted that the Minister did not fully
understand the relationship between imports of feed and
production of poultry. Although the Ministry would like to
decrease agriculture imports, it would be difficult for
Turkey to produce poultry meat without feed imports. In the
end, however, the industry was optimistic that Guclu would
adjust to the job.

Delegating Authority

4. (SBU) The Minister has been relying on close advisors to
navigate through difficult issues. The Ministry has
budgetary concerns as well as a large, and generally poor,
farming sector. Officials in the Ministry believe that,
unlike his predecessors, Minister Guclu will delegate more
responsibility to his subordinates which would facilitate
work and relationships with the private sector and other

5. (SBU) There have been other positive signs, as well.
Recently, the Minister met with a number of private sector
officials to discuss their concerns with new Turkish
phytosanitary regulations. (Reftels) At a meeting with
FAS/Ankara staff, several representatives noted that they
were impressed by the Minister's willingness to solicit
opinions from the private sector. Previous administrations
were more suspicious of industry, in general, and ignored
suggestions and complaints. Guclu, not only met with the
private sector, but in the end supported their position and
suspended the regulations. One official emphatically stated
that it was the first time in 15 years that a Minister and a
Ministry had responded in such a way.

Not all Rosy

6. (SBU) Despite these positive signs, it is still very
early in the administration. Although the new government
has pledged support for the IMF-backed direct support
system, the government recently announced that it would
return to a production support system that has, in the past,
encouraged inefficiencies and over-production in tobacco,
hazelnuts and sugar beets. One cynical private sector
observer noted that normally politicians give gifts like
this before the elections, not after. This change has also
raised some concern from both the World Bank and IMF. The
Ministry also recognizes the need to increase direct foreign
investment in agriculture, but continues to alienate many
foreign companies who already have invested here.

7. (SBU) On the trade side, Ministry officials continue to
espouse the goal of self-sufficiency in agricultural
production. Through various licensing mechanisms the
Ministry continues to prevent imports of meat despite the
product's inclusion in many bilateral trade agreements. In
addition, the Ministry maintains high tariffs on most
agriculture imports. As a result, the Turkish consumer is
forced to pay 149 percent tariff on bananas despite the fact
that Turkey only produces 15 percent of its domestic demand.

Better U.S.-Turkish Ag Relations

8. (SBU) During the past few months in meetings with
FAS/Ankara reps, Ministry officials have expressed their
desire to increase contacts with USDA and U.S. agriculture
representatives. Turkish officials appear open to
facilitating this relationship. Training programs offer the
prospect of improving relationships between officials in
both countries. Post has already discussed some future
collaboration with APHIS and GIPSA representatives in
providing some technical information to government and
private sector officials. Improving these relations
especially on technical issues could facilitate discussions
on trade and trade issues, not only bilateral but also in
multilateral discussions.

A Tough Road Ahead

9. (SBU) Comment. It is not difficult in fact to
understand the Ministry's position. Although it has a
vibrant food-processing sector, 40 percent of the Turkish
population lives in rural areas, many at subsistence income
levels. The Ministry, therefore, is compelled to support
local production despite inefficiencies. In turn, this
helps slow migration to already crowded urban areas. In
addition, with EU negotiations somewhere in the future,
raising Turkish agricultural productivity and encouraging
greater efficiencies will be most important. However, the
lack of funds for supporting the sector may be so
prohibitive and the needs so great that it may be very
difficult to reach these goals.


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