Cablegate: Turkey: Small Farming Town with Thriving

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

080850Z Apr 05





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. As one of Anatolia,s small
agriculture-based communities, Bala is representative of
Turkey's traditional economy. Farmers rely heavily on the
central government,s direct income support payments to
compensate for increasing input costs. Although there are
hopes to establish an irrigation system, agriculture remains
antiquated. At the same time, the local transportation
industry provides a badly-needed supplement to agriculture.
Local leaders have tried to attract outside investment to
help find other opportunities for growth but have been
unsuccessful. However, there seems to be a strong emphasis
on education and Bala has proudly managed to support and
promote educational opportunities for its residents. End

2. (U) Bala is a small agricultural sub-province, 69
kilometers south of Ankara,s city center. Its main economic
activities are agriculture, animal husbandry and
transportation. Embassy officers recently visited Bala,s
city center which is set atop a hill overlooking the
sub-province's 3 municipalities and 57 villages. The city
center itself is very small with a population of about 6,500.
Like many small towns in Anatolia, the houses were rundown
and there was no evidence of any new construction.

Farmers Need Support Due to High Input Costs

3. (U) Bala's farmers grow wheat, barley, sunflower, sugar
beet, corn, and fruit. The President of the Agricultural
Union, Nizmettin Gurbuz, proudly told us that Bala also
produces the highest quality grape branches for wine
vineyards. The Head of the Truck Drivers Union, Erbal Erdem,
said that in terms of land, Bala is the second or third
largest farming area in Turkey*Konya being the largest.

4. (U) The central government provides farmers with subsidies
and direct income support payments depending on the size of
the land and the type of products cultivated. (Note:
Turkey's transition to direct income supports from other,
more expensive and market-distorting ag subsidies, has been a
significant accomplishment of the World Bank-sponsored
agricultural reform. End Note.) Gurbuz admitted that
without the government,s support, the agriculture industry
could not survive due to the high cost of inputs such as fuel
and fertilizer. For example, growing wheat has not been
profitable because fuel has become very expensive*to buy one
liter of fuel, one needs to grow six kilos of wheat. The
majority of farmers are just breaking even and not making any

5. (U) In addition to the high cost of inputs, the
agriculture industry faces the problem of the current lack of
an irrigation system. Because of this, 120,000 acres of land
must be kept idle every year. Local government hopes to
improve its agricultural industry by introducing irrigation
methods to diversify its products*specifically by producing
apples and cherries. According to the Sub-Governor, Bala,s
animal husbandry sector was very successful last year and it
continues to be an important supplier of cattle, sheep, and
poultry products for Ankara.

6. (U) Agriculture alone does not provide enough income for
families. Residents must find other forms of employment
outside the sub-province*some Bala residents go to work in
Ankara,s city center during the day and come back at night
or on the weekends*or supplement their income via the
town,s transportation industry. There is also seasonal work
available in wine production at private companies closer in
to Ankara and local women usually take advantage of these

7. (SBU) Gurbuz and other Agriculture Union members are
consoled by the belief that joining the EU will solve many of
their agricultural woes. They believe that with full
membership in the EU, Turkish farmers will see substantial
agricultural support and an increase in production and
efficiency in farming. Some of the members base this belief
on the reports from their relatives who work in the
agricultural sector in Germany. (Comment: It appears that
Agriculture Union members are under the illusion that once
Turkey enters the EU, they will immediately receive
sufficient support to revive their agriculture industry. In
fact, Turkey's woefully inefficient smallholder farmers are
likely to be wiped out by the EU's modern agriculture sector,
rather than propped up with subsidies. And it remains to be
seen if the farmers understand that an increased quality of
production in the EU means much higher standards which
Turkey,s food industry is not ready to meet. End Comment.)

Iraq Fuels Transportation Industry

8. (U) The transportation industry, unlike the agriculture
industry, has seen a spike in business*mainly because of the
transportation contracts for bringing goods and supplies to
Iraq. 90% of Bala residents make their living from
transportation either as a primary or supplementary form of
income. Of the union,s 2,000 active members, 25% of the
drivers carry goods into Iraq and 50% carry them up to the
border gates. The rest transport stone and gypsum within the

9. (SBU) Like the municipality members and the head of the
Agriculture Union, the head of the Truck Drivers Union does
not believe the local economy has improved despite overall
economic growth in the country. At the same time, he
believes that Bala would not be severely affected if Turkey
was hit by another economic crisis. He attributes this to
the availability of income which could always be derived from
the transportation industry and agriculture*the long-lasting
mainstays of the sub-province. Nevertheless, he does admit
that there would be a huge crisis in the transportation
industry if truck drivers did not have business with Iraq.
In the last two years, business has increased 90%. He also
mentioned that there is widespread belief in the town based
on the reports of local media outlets that &the US would
invade Syria this summer8 and he noted sardonically that
this could bring greater business opportunities to the
transportation industry.

10. (SBU) The large increase in business in the
transportation industry has not fully compensated for higher
fuel prices. Since large companies receive the
transportation contracts and most of Bala,s drivers are
contracted, the drivers end up paying for the higher fuel
prices without reaping the profits. To compensate, drivers
often double or triple the normal capacity of their trucks*a
dangerous endeavor which also causes severe damage to
highways and roads. Erdem gave no sign that the drivers
would stop overloading anytime in the near future or that the
government was doing anything to prevent them.

Local Leaders Split Views on Local Economy

11. (SBU) Though the Sub-Governor (Kaymakam), Gunay Ozturk,
told Embassy officers that Turkey,s overall economic growth
in the past year has been reflected here in the form of
increasing trucking jobs and trade, the municipality members
and local agriculture and truck drivers unions did not share
the same opinion. And, when asked about any problems facing
the sub-province, the Sub-Governor seemed a bit guarded about
disclosing information. He did however mention that the lack
of an organized industrial zone and an inadequate sewage
system are concerns for the town. He added that the
government would address the latter problem in its
development plans.

12. (SBU) Acting Mayor, Yuksel Yildirim and 3 municipality
council members met with Embassy Officers and were less
reticent than the Sub-Governor regarding challenges facing
the sub-province. Under the new Metropolitan Municipalities
Law (MML), the local government, with the inclusion of the
villages, now provides services to 14,000 people. Though the
municipality is receiving 40% more of their past budget from
the central government because they have to provide for a
greater number of people, 40% of their new budget goes to the
Ankara Metropolitan Municipality. In theory, these resources
should be returned to Bala in the form of services.
According to the council members, Bala residents have yet to
see these services. Thus, the municipality must provide
services for 14,000 people with the same amount of resources
they had to provide services for 6,500.

13. (SBU) Moreover, contrary to the Sub-Governor,s
assertions, municipality council members believe the current
economic situation in Bala is poor. The only permanent
income the municipality receives comes from property and
cleaning taxes and the municipality does not have the
authority to seek revenues through any other means. The
number of eligible and willing job-seekers far outnumbers the
employment opportunities. And though the sub-province places
a strong emphasis on education both at the secondary and
higher education levels, Bala seems to have a large brain
drain problem and residents seek employment opportunities in
more affluent communities such as Istanbul or Ankara,s city
center. According to the municipality members, approximately
400 graduates currently cannot find employment in Bala. The
members described the unemployment problem as &inevitable.8

Investment Believed to Mitigate Unemployment
14. (U) The municipality has been trying to attract
investment into the sub-province to mitigate the unemployment
problem by offering land at very affordable prices and
infrastructure services. But so far, they have not managed
to attract any investors. In fact, council members told
Embassy Officers that many Bala residents have moved to
Ankara,s city center and are leaders in the textile
industry. The council members have often gone to these
wealthy former Bala residents and solicited investments from
them to no avail. Still, council members believe investment
in the sub-province,s other natural resources such as
&white gold8 (a mineral used in plaster production) and
iron ore could help alleviate Bala,s economic problems.

Making Do With Limited Resources

15. (U) Despite the lack of substantial resources, there is a
serious focus on education in Bala. There are 6 high schools
and 35 primary schools in the sub-province. There is also an
industrial vocational school and a health vocational
school*the women who graduate from the latter usually find
jobs as nurses or secretaries in both the public and private
sectors. Though there are no private schools or university
entrance exam prep courses offered in Bala, the municipality
pays for transportation to Golbasi or Ankara,s city center.
The municipality is also hoping that Hacettepe University
will open an extension campus in Bala to offer a two-year
college degree in engineering and electronics. The
municipality is willing to pay for fuel and transportation
costs for professors to come and teach at the school and the
Social Solidarity Fund has also constructed a 200-bed
capacity dormitory for students of the proposed Hacettepe
University campus as well as for the health vocational

16. (U) In addition to plans to increase educational
opportunities in the sub-province, Sub-Governor Ozturk
mentioned that the zoning plan*mainly under the jurisdiction
of the municipality*was nearly complete and that they are
currently working on plans to develop an industrial center,
sports facilities, and a parking area for the town,s many
trucks. According to the Sub-Governor, Bala already attracts
a large number of weekenders for whom an industrial center
and sports facilities could also be of use. The neighboring
Bala Ataturk Forest provides a welcome respite for
city-dwellers in Ankara, and weekends are a popular time for
out-of)towners to picnic, hike and jog in the forest.
Sports facilities are already available for use. Those who
work in Ankara,s city center during the week, often come
back to Bala to do farmwork and picnic on the weekends.


17. (SBU) Comment. For a small town in dry central Anatolia,
Bala is fortunate to have both the agriculture and
transportation industries to support its economy.
Municipality and union leaders may be concerned about the
effects of higher input costs and they may believe the local
economy is not reflecting the country,s overall growth.
However, agriculture and transportation supplement the other
and local leaders seem to think that even if one struggles,
the other can make up for the losses. At the same time, much
of Bala,s economy is still based on traditional agriculture
and animal husbandry. If its farmers believe that upon
entrance into the EU their current agricultural problems will
be solved, they are likely to be in for a rude awakening.

© Scoop Media

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