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Country profile - Turkey


The Republic of Turkey is geostrategically the bridge between East and West. Established in 1923, as a secular and modernizing republic with an almost entirely Muslim population, its ethnic, historical, cultural, religious and linguistic links with the people of Central Asia, Caucasus and Balkans give it a special geopolitical significance.


Turkey is located halfway between the equator and the north pole (latitude 36°N - 42°N, longitude 26°E - 45°E). Rectangular in shape (1660 kilometres long and 550 kilometres wide), the country is divided into 7 geographical regions: Black Sea, Marmara and Thrace, Aegian, Mediterranean, Central Anatolia, Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia.

Turkey is a mountainous country with the highest mountain Agri (Ararat), which is 5165 metres high, close to Iranian and Armenian borders. The actual surface area of Turkey, inclusive of lakes, is 814,578 km2, of which 790,200 are in Asia and 24,378 are located in Europe.

Turkey is bounded by the Black Sea in the north, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran in the east, Iraq, Syria and the Mediterranean Sea in the south, Bulgaria, Greece, and the Aegean Sea in the west. The average rainfall is about 650mm, which varies considerably from region to region: the central plateau and south-eastern plateau receives an average of 250mm; while the north-eastern Black Sea coast receives 2500mm. In the western and southern coastal zones, a subtropical Mediterranean climate predominates Arid and semi-arid climate prevails in the central and south-eastern regions.


In the agriculture sector, the value of crop production is 57%, animal products 34%, forestry 6% and fisheries 3%. By international standards, Turkey is a major producer of grain, cotton, tobacco, grapes, sunflower, pulses (chickpeas and lentils), dried fruit (hazelnuts, seedless raisins, figs, apricots), fresh fruits (apples and citrus), tomatoes, tea and small ruminants (sheep, goats). Cereal production occupies 75% of Turkey's cropland. With a wheat production (21 million tons) and barley production (9 million tons) in 1999, Turkey is one of the world's biggest wheat and barley producers. Besides cotton and tobacco, sugar beet is another important industrial crop (22 million tons in 1998).

Conditions in Turkey are favourable for livestock production. According to 1998 figures, there are 11 million big and 37.5 million small ruminants (29.5 million sheep, 8 million goats) in the country. Turkey also produced 756,000 tons of eggs and 486,000 tons of poultry meat in 1997.

Even though Turkey produces large quantities of cereals and has millions of cattle, productivity per unit area and per head of animal needs improvement. In 1998, average wheat yield in Turkey was 2234kg/ha., one-third of that in advanced countries (world average 2624 kg/ha). In the same year, world average milk production per milche animal was 2028 kg, while in Turkey it was 1564 kg, one-fourth of the averages of advanced countries. These indicate the potential and the need for technology transfer and productivity improvement.

Turkish agriculture, especially cereal production, is heavily dependent on seasonal rainfall. While there are about 8.5 million hectares of land under potential perennial irrigation, only about half of this area, 4.5 million hectares, has been equipped with requisite irrigation infrastructure. It is known that the expansion of irrigated lands helps to improve production, create rural employment and alleviate migration from rural to urban areas. Towards this end, it is envisaged to irrigate an additional 1.7 million hectares in the Southeastern Anatolia Project area by 2015. Already 300 thousand hectares have been brought under irrigation in Harran and adjoining areas in the south-east, giving a boost to the production of cotton and other crops.

Another characteristic of Turkish agriculture is the small farm size. There are just over 4 million farm households in Turkey. 67% of these farms each owns between 0.1-5 hectares of land, (22% of total agricultural land), while only 33% of households own more than 5 hectares - comprising 78% of available agricultural land. Farm output therefore remains low in comparison to the country's enormous potential and farmers' average income is also low. Small farm size and lack of economies of scale, coupled with increases in input prices, dependency on rainfed agriculture, and lack of efficient market mechanisms are leading to a rapid rural exodus. According to 1999 figures, average GDP per capita in Turkey was US$3250, compared to US$1429 in agriculture.

Agricultural Policies

Inflation and the high interest rates have been a major constraint in the development of agricultural sector. The unstable exchange rate increases the degree of price uncertainty faced by farmers, both in the export and domestic markets. Reassuringly, the Government has embarked upon a deep and wide-ranging reform process, which will include and benefit the agriculture sector on a priority basis.

The Government has had a wide range of programmes aimed at supporting agricultural production through the establishment of large-scale irrigation schemes, the provision of cheap credit, the subsidization of inputs, the provision of extension services and the financing of research. The Turkish Government has traditionally intervened in the agricultural sector in order to support producer prices, to subsidize inputs and credit and to reduce the consumer prices of staple food. Although producer price support has been very costly to the government, it has failed to stabilize farm incomes. As a result, procurement support has been substantially reduced in recent years, while the production, importation and marketing of fertilizer, agricultural chemicals and farm machinery, except seed supplies, have all been fully privatized.

Turkey joined the Customs Union with the EU in January 1996. However, agricultural commodities were exempt from this Union, while processed products were included. Ultimately, unrestricted trade in primary agricultural commodities is a possibility, but this would require considerable adjustment of Turkish agricultural policies. Turkey's agriculture will face severe problems and difficulties, unless radical reforms are made to improve productivity and quality, to bring about overall stability, to ensure that prices are internationally competitive. The Turkish Government signed a stand-by Agreement with IMF in December 1999 committing itself to gradually phase out existing agricultural support and credit subsidy to farmers and replace them with a direct income support system targeted at poor farmers and to meanwhile rationalize the agricultural policies commensurably.

Other important agricultural policy reforms include the establishment of agricultural producers' unions, adoption of agricultural insurance system, privatization of State Economic Enterprises, development of agricultural commodity exchanges and to strengthen research and development activities. In the long run, the goal is to face the inevitable reduction of a rural population dependant, mainly on farming, from the present 40% to 10% and to promote agro-industry, as well as the adoption of international standards for agricultural commodities in the process of integration with EU in the near and medium term.

Statistical information
  • Country: Republic of Turkey
  • Capital: Ankara
  • Population: 63,451,000 (1998)
  • Annual Growth rate: 1.4%
  • Area: 814,578 km2
  • Land Area: 76.9m ha.
  • Cultivated area: 28m ha.
  • Population Density:78 persons/km2
  • Unemployment: 6.3%
  • Employed in agriculture: 43%
  • Employed in services: 40.3%
  • Employed in industry: 16.7%
  • Currency: Turkish Lira (TL)
  • GNP: US$ 204.5 billion, (16th among OECD)
  • GDP: US$ 3,250 per capita
  • Exports: US$ 26.9 billion - Agricultural US$2.7 billion; Minerals US$363 million; Manufacturing US$23.8 billion
  • Imports: US$ 45.9 billion
  • Cash Crops: Wheat, barley, cotton, sugar beets, sunflower, potato, tobacco, vegetables, dried fruits, fresh fruits, nuts, ornamentals.
  • Natural Resources: Hydro-Electric power, chromium, copper, tungsten, phosphate, boron, barite, bentonite, manganese, zinc, magnesite, perlite, wolfram, asbestos, bauxite, lead, mercury, sulphur, emery, meerschaum, marble, aluminium, iron, coal, crude oil, forests, livestock
  • Agricultural Exports: Hazelnuts, pistachio, figs, dried raisins and apricot, pulses, tobacco, citrus, pome and stone fruits, melons, vegetables, tomato products, cut flowers, processed food, poultry meat, cereals, cotton, tea.
  • Other Exports: Manufactured goods, minerals, textile, thread, ready-to-wear clothing, leather, machinery, mechanical appliances, furniture, carpets, rugs, automobiles, buses, pharmaceuticals, man-made filaments, glass and glass-ware products, articles of iron and steel and aluminium.
  • Major Trading Partners: OECD, EU, Middle-East and CIS countries, Russian Federation.

Written by: Dr Maharaj K. Muthoo, FAO Representative, Turkey

Date published: May 2000


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