In a written statement released by his office on Sunday, Turkish Union of Agricultural Chambers (TZOB) President Şemsi Bayraktar said Turkey had as much as 268,300 square kilometers of arable land in 1995, an area which contracted to 243,900 square kilometers in 2010. Drawing attention to the fact that the nearly 25,000 square kilometer loss is larger than Eastern Thrace -- Turkey’s entire European territory -- Bayraktar said it is of utmost importance for the country to stop what has become a precipitous decline in cultivatable land. The decline during the last decade and a half can be reversed, the TZOB president said, and around 3,100,000 square kilometers can be gained if investments in better irrigation are increased in the near future. Though an unprecedented amount of cultivatable land has been lost, Turkey’s agriculture industry has nevertheless become more productive and more diverse over the 15-year period. “In contrast to the decrease in arable land, the productivity of the land has increased by a significant degree,” said Bayraktar. According to his figures, the average number of kilograms of grain produced by a square kilometer of land increased 14.6 percent, up from 212,000 kilograms in 1990 to 243,000 during the 2010-2011 season. The productivity of other staples grew even more quickly, with corn production up 77.9 percent from 408,000 kilos per square kilometer to 726,000 and rice doubling from 434,000 kilos to 869,000.
Bayraktar also noted that the crops grown by farmers had also changed dramatically between 1995-2010, with the area used for growing vegetables decreasing from 7,850 square kilometers to 7,300. The same period, however, saw a dramatic rise in the total area used for fruit production from 19,600 square kilometers to 24,600.