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Turkey & Azerbaijan: old partners, fresh trade

Turkey & Azerbaijan have enjoyed a long and fruitful trade relationship for decades. Turnover between the two states soars to well over a billion dollars each year.

Recent statistics have revealed Italy has been toppled from Azerbaijan’s trade partner top spot. Turkey, so far, has taken Italy’s place in 2016 by reaching trade turnover levels of $1.459 billion. 

Much of the export/import activity between the two states comes in the form of mineral products – but Turkey is keen to hit Azerbaijan hard with a wealth of food and beverage commodities in order to expand its agriproduct presence further across Central Asia.

Turkey food exports are high while Azerbaijan exports less

The food trade between Azerbaijan and Turkey is, on paper, an almost entirely one-sided affair. Data from Azerbaijan’s State Statistical Committee (SSC) backs up this idea, by revealing that Azerbaijan exported just $77,600 worth of fruit juice to Turkey in 2015.

Turkey’s trade activities paint a very different picture. Millions of dollars’ worth of agriproducts and foodstuffs originating in Turkey were imported by Azerbaijan in 2015. In pure monetary terms, the following were the biggest products from Turkish exporters to Azerbaijan in 2015 (all data taken from the SSC):

• Eggs & associated products - $7.1 million
• Bread & baked confectionery - $5.9 million
• Chocolate - $4.8 million
• Fresh fruit - $4.6 million
• Macaroni - $2.8 million
• Mineral water - $2.3 million
• Other confectionery - $1.4 million 

The above are just the real heavy hitters, when it comes to Turkish-Azerbaijani food exports. Of course, a wide variety of other commodities and product categories are shipped from Turkey to Azerbaijan. 

From the above, it is easy to see that Azerbaijani’s have something of a sweet tooth when it comes to Turkish products. Confectionery, including chocolate and baked goods, is the largest product group exported from Turkish producers. 

This suggests Turkish firms searching for opportunities to get a slice of the action in Azerbaijan should look to the sweeter things in life. However, an already established market suggests it may be highly competitive so the focus for new exporters would be on quality, price and uniqueness of product. 

SSC data went onto show some other areas where Turkish firms are making headway in Azerbaijan. 2015 saw Turkish producers ship 864 tons of poultry meat, worth approximately $575,000, to Azerbaijan, while a further 354 tons of seafood with a value of $189,300 was also exported.

It is slightly surprising to see high volumes of fresh fruit being imported by Azerbaijan. Favourable climatic conditions across the country means a cornucopia of fruits can and are grown across the country – with many varieties overlapping with Turkey’s fruit output. 

Turkey is keen to expand trade levels even further

After meetings in later October 2015, Turkey firmly set out its intentions to increase its foreign trade volumes with Azerbaijan by some orders of magnitude. Currently hitting close to $1.5 billion annually, trade levels are healthy between the two states – but seemingly not healthy enough for some.

Then Turkish Minister of Customs and Trade Cenap Aşçı set his ambitions sky high, by stating trade should be increased to $20 billion each year by 2021. This would certainly be a Herculean effort, and be mostly focussed around mineral exports/imports. With Turkey still under the grip of Russian food bans, however, food and beverages could play a major role in substantially raising trade levels between the two states. 

Turkish companies are sitting in a robust position, when it comes to trading with Azerbaijan. The Central Asian state already enjoys friendly relations and an ongoing food and drink trade with Turkey. The networks and contacts are already there – it is up to Turkish companies to make those all-important connections.


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