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Cablegate: Turkish Agriculture On the Eve of Eu Negotiations

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

140817Z Oct 05





E.O. 12958:N/A
SUBJECT: Turkish Agriculture on the Eve of EU Negotiations

Sensitive but unclassified. Not for Internet Distribution.

1. Summary. Turkey is expected to open the chapter on
agriculture by January 2006. While agriculture will be one
of the more difficult negotiations, given the significant
and wrenching changes needed in rural areas, Turkey may
benefit from the process itself. The Turkish government is
being credited for its recent response to the avian
influenza outbreak. Coming on the heels of the October
announcement, that EU negotiations would begin, Turkey may
already be reaping the benefits. End Summary.

Turkish Agriculture - The Polish Model

2. (SBU) Turkish agriculture officials expect to open
negotiations with the European Union on agriculture in
December or January. It will be, as many officials have
noted, a daunting task. Agriculture still represents about
12 percent of Turkey's GDP, which is quite high. Poland's
EU experience may be very similar to Turkey's. Both
countries have very modern food processing sectors, which
should be able to compete, quality wise, in international
markets. At the same time, adapting agricultural production
will be a formidable task. Like Poland 25 to 30 percent of
Turkey's population is involved in agricultural production
with 40 percent of Turkey's total population still residing
in rural areas. The average farm size in Turkey and Poland,
despite some improvement in recent years, is only 6 - 8
hectares. One difference is that the Turkish rural
population is less educated than in Poland, which will make
any transition more difficult in Turkey. Thus far, the GOT
has done little to make rural Turks aware of the wrenching
changes likely to come, as Turkey's small landholders using
antiquated methods are forced to compete in the EU market.
Given Turkey's already high unemployment and rural-urban
migration, the GOT is likely to postpone as long as possible
the needed changes in the agriculture sector.

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A Zen-Like Approach

3. (SBU) Over the past several months, FAS/Ankara has met
with agri-business representatives to get their views on EU
membership. Interestingly, most were somewhat pessimistic
about Turkey's long-term chances and that for their industry
the benefits might not be as substantial as in other
sectors. Given Turkey's previous agreements with the
European Union, trade may not increase substantially.
Turkey already has access to the European market for those
commodities for which they are most competitive; fresh
fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils, dried fruits, nuts
and processed products. For grains and oilseeds, Turkey
will most likely not be competitive.

4. (SBU) Despite the somewhat negative take on prospects
for eventual EU membership, these same Turkish companies
believed that the negotiating process alone would be
extremely beneficial to Turkish agriculture. First, there
would be more transparency in regulations and government
decision making. Second, quality standards would improve
for Turkish products. Third, the Turkish legal system would
be much more open. Fourth, there would be more efforts made
in educating the rural population. And finally, each of
these would contribute to Turkey's image, which would
hopefully attract more investment in the agriculture sector.
These benefits were underscored during a recent trip by
FAS/Ankara to Bursa and Bandirma as well as the recent
outbreak of AI in Turkey.

The Mamara Region - Export Oriented

5. (SBU) The Marmara region is very indicative of Turkish
agriculture. Small farms share the area with some of the
most modern food processing facilities in Turkey. At the
same time, the agri-business companies are not typical.
AgCounselor and AgAtt visited 9 Turkish companies during the
first week of October, the majority of which (planting
seeds, vegetable oil, dairy) are export oriented including
two poultry companies hoping to soon export to the European
Union and Russia. At Sutas, one of the larger Turkish
dairies, company representatives viewed the start of EU
negotiations as an incentive to improve quality and raise
production. Currently, Turkey produces 11 - 12 million tons
of milk. However, only 2 million tons is certified and
acknowledged by the EU as true production. The majority of
milk is produced on small farms with little refrigeration or
quality control. Bacterial levels are in millions versus
thousands in most modern companies. Sutas purchases milk
from 35,000 households, the majority possessing less than 5
animals. The Sutas officials believed strongly that the
process for EU membership alone would be an incentive to
improve the quality of milk. Since dairy production will be
subject to quotas, there is equal incentive to raise the
level of certified milk. This in turn will reap both
economic and health benefits.

--------------------------------------------- -----
AI Outbreak - Kudos to the Ministry of Agriculture
--------------------------------------------- -----

6. (SBU) EU officials believe that the Turkish government's
performance during the recent AI outbreak in Turkey was
directly related to EU membership talks. Coming on the
heels of the announcement in October, the Turkish Ministry
of Agriculture's performance during the recent crisis could
be credited to work and training with the European Union.
Turkish officials noted that the quarantine they implemented
was based on the quarantine used in the Netherlands during
that country's recent AI outbreak. For all intents and
purposes, the ministry's performance has been applauded by
Turkish industry and consumers. Their decisive approach to
contain the outbreak and keep the public informed was,
compared with previous crises, extraordinary. Their actions
could also be related to the improved relations with the
agri-business community and greater willingness over the
past several years to work cooperatively with private
companies. Moreover, Turkish officials seem committed to
improving the sector's export performance. Several Turkish
poultry companies have been preliminarily approved for
export to the European Union, pending the outcome of
negotiations on a 19 thousand ton beef-import quota for EU
beef. On the other hand the Turkish public is less inclined
to believe the GOT, due in major part to previous missteps.

Comment: MARA Get Good Grades

7. (SBU) Turkey's agriculture ministry is not considered
one of the most open or forward thinking. Turkey's
agriculture sector faces many obstacles in the future.
However, most would agree that the start of EU negotiations,
irregardless of the end result, will still benefit the
sector. Recent events have shown the Ministry of
Agriculture capable of decisive action and a willingness to
work with Turkish companies. Turkish companies view the
negotiations as an incentive to improve quality and
production. While we are at least two months away from
opening the start of long and arduous agriculture
negotiations the Ministry and agriculture sector performed
well in what might be considered its first test since
October. One issue in the event of greater public health
concerns, however, is the absence of a clear that mechanism
for effective cooperation between the Ministry of
Agriculture and the Ministry of Health. There is a recent
history of poor relations due, at least in part, to previous
overlapping responsibilities for food safety.


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