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2016 in the Turkish food industry: 5 big talking points

Coups; embargo; lower GDP growth; just some of the challenges hitting Turkey’s food industry in 2016. In the face of such adversity, however, the sector stayed buoyant over the past 12 months. With 2017 just around the corner, here are five big talking points regarding Turkey’s food and beverage market in 2016. 

Turkish food & drink imports drop

2016 saw a decrease in the volumes of food and beverage imports in Turkey. According to data from the Turkish Statistical Industry, import values dropped over $337 million during January-September 2016. During this same period in 2015, Turkey imported food products worth $5,557 billion. 2016’s total saw imports reach $5,239 billion.

Despite an overall slump, some key product groups saw increases. Fruits and vegetables, which often form a major section of a nation’s food imports, witnessed a rise in imports throughout January-September 2016. Shipments of vegetables to Turkey rose in value from $307.5 million to $329.5 million during the review period. Fruit imports, which totalled $340.4 million during January-September 2015, reached $385.4 million in 2016.

While imports are lower, major product areas are recording growth, suggesting a greater demand for these amongst Turkish consumers.

Russia & Turkey fall out food-wise…

Perhaps the biggest issue that hit Turkey’s food industry in 2016 was Russia’s ban on Turkish food imports. The embargo was put in place following a Turkish jet shooting down a Russian plane above Syria in November 2015. Russia subsequently put a block on all Turkish agriproducts entering the country, and also restricted its own Turkish exports.

This proved a huge challenge for Turkish producers. Turkey’s pre-embargo food exports to Russia previously amounted in the region of over $1 billion annually, mainly in fruit and vegetables. 2016 saw volumes drop considerably. During first half of the year, only $91 million worth of Turkish goods made their way to Russian consumers.

As 2016 draws to a close, however reconciliation between Russia and Turkey is on the cards, thanks to a changing in attitudes, high stakes political discussion and no little help from WorldFood Moscow…

…And then make up

After WorldFood Moscow, held between 12-15 September 2016, Turkey’s West Mediterranean Exporters Association (BAİB) reported some reconciliatory signs. The Association stated after its members exhibited at Russia’s leading food event received their first Russian orders for over 10 months. 

These orders were amongst the first indications Russia was willing to relax its Turkish embargo by 2016’s end. Rosselkhoznadzor, the Russian food safety authority, has been conducting inspections in Turkey and has cleared a wide range of important products for re-export. Citrus fruits, one of Turkey’s most important products for export to Russia, are now back in Russian stores for example. 

Only a handful of Turkish products are still banned from entering Russia. Both sides are confident of a full resumption of agrifood trade in 2017 and beyond.

Turkey eyes up or completes fresh free trade deals

A raft of new free trade deals with countries across the globe either came into force or began to take shape across 2016. Turkey has eyed up continent-spanning agreements with huge food markets – pointing the way towards increased opportunities for those nations’ producers to enjoy Turkish food export success in the near future. 

Expanded agreements with Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are being examined, alongside a modified post-Brexit deal with the UK. A new Moldova-Turkey agreement came into force in August 2016. The nation also went on a charm offensive against 42 African countries at November’s Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum, hoping to expand its presence on the continent.

These deals are illustrate Turkey’s ambitions to cast its food net far and wide in the future – but also paint a nation willing to increase consumption of further foreign foods, creating export opportunities in new nations across the globe.

Turkish food market in exporters’ sights

Despite lower import levels, and political stability becoming a hot topic, more foreign companies spied opportunities in Turkey in 2016. Norway, for example, has identified an emerging gap in Turkey’s seafood sector and plans to step up salmon exports exponentially in the near future.

MATRADE, Malaysia’s international trade promotion body, continues to drive exporters towards turkey. Its recent Export Acceleration Mission to Istanbul in November 2016, brought its producers in front of Turkish companies and generated an additional $21 million in revenues earlier in 2016.

This is just a tiny cross section of nations stepping up food exports to Turkey, despite the earlier coup attempt casting fears of instability across the country. Exporters are still finding Turkey to be a stable region and a rich market to explore. Its geographic position, bridging Asia and Europe, plus young, fast-growing population, also make Turkey a highly attractive food export destination.

What will 2017 hold for Turkey’s food sector?

Full reconciliation with Russia and post-coup attempt stability will be the hot topics on commentator’s lips going into 2017 for the Turkish food sector. Nothing is certain as of yet, but the issues mentioned in this article appear close to resolution. 

Whatever the ups and downs of Turkey’s food industry over the next twelve months, there is one thing that will remain the same: the importance of WorldFood Istanbul. As Turkey’s premiere food and drinks trade show, it is the place to be to get information on the latest market trends, meet the sector’s major figures, and make all important business deals. Make sure you do not miss out on 2017’s event.


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