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July 08, 2012, Sunday

Government subsidies for organic farming

People can survive only with the collaboration of many sectors, and agriculture is the principal activity that enables survival. If organic agriculture becomes widespread, organic products will be more widely available and cheaper; however, unfortunately, at the present time it is becoming difficult to find organic products.

At this stage, the consumption of organic products in Turkey is probably limited to only a few people -- not even 1 percent of the population. The organic markets in Şişli and Kartal have been followed by others, but this is not enough. The whole industry should be changed.

The description of what is organic is also not well established in Turkey as of yet. People have to understand that in organic agriculture, chemical products are not used. Only organic fertilizer and plant protection products can be used to guard the plant against plant disease. Consequently the yield is weak, and organic products are not as widespread as non-organic.

People usually confuse organic agriculture with good agricultural practice. Good agricultural practices are not an alternative agricultural method to organic production. Chemicals and manure can be used in good practice, but the emphasis is on using them in a way that is healthy for both people and the environment. In such practice, products are analyzed in laboratories, and if they contain harmful chemicals, no certification is issued and the product cannot be marketed as a good agricultural product.

Certification of good agricultural practice is issued by institutions authorized by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. If the product is in conformity with the criteria, the certificate of good agricultural practice is issued. We cannot say that organic agriculture in particular is an easy and cheap method for the production of food, so the improvement of good agricultural practices is important to produce safe and healthy food until different methods have been developed.

Over the past weeks, three communiqués have been published in the Official Gazette on this matter. The first relates to support payments for agricultural consultancy. The aim of that communiqué is to support real persons and legal entities who engage in consultancy regarding agricultural production and to ensure this consultancy system is working effective and productively.

The real persons and legal entities to be supported within the scope of this legislation are consultants employed by agricultural chambers, associations and companies providing agricultural consultancy and freelance agricultural consultants.

Payments of TL 600 per year will be made to each agricultural enterprise utilizing agricultural consultancy services within the scope of this legislation for each agricultural enterprise receiving agricultural consultancy services. This is not much, but it is a start.

The second communiqué is in respect of support payments for good agricultural practices. The purpose of this legislation is to protect the farmers who employ good agricultural methods. Within the scope of this communiqué, farmers will be paid TL 25 per decare for fruit and vegetable production. Farmers already receiving financial support practicing organic agriculture will be outside the scope of this legislation.

The third and final communiqué purports to support farmers practicing organic agriculture with a payment of TL 35 per decare.

Turkey has fertile land that can support many agricultural practices. Unfortunately, however, we cannot speak of qualified and productive farming where Turkey is concerned. Turkey still imports many agricultural products and seeds. But we have seen progress in organic agriculture, albeit very little. People have been utilizing the opportunity to eat properly, and the interest in organic products increases with every passing day.

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