Urban agriculture’- Türkiye eyes major shift for cheaper food

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is preparing to roll out a series of steps for the implementation of the “urban agriculture” model to facilitate access to cheaper and fresh food in addition to more support and new regulations for farmers, including the registration of crops before planting and cash aid before and after harvests.

The steps are part of a government initiative seeking to modernize agriculture policies and were outlined by Agriculture and Forestry Minister Vahit Kirişçi at a recent meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

The ministry says agriculture established a “new normal” amid the challenges it faced from the COVID-19 pandemic,  climate change and a decline of agricultural lands, to migration, geopolitical risks, food nationalism, monopolization in agriculture and food production, increasing consumption and rising costs. Türkiye aims to take steps that are compatible with this new era to ensure the security of production and supply in agriculture and food production as well as water and energy.

The urban agriculture model within the scope of the government’s plan seeks to encourage agricultural activities in big cities, at a time when rural populations are in decline. The model will bring centers of production and consumption closer, curbing logistics challenges such as additional transportation costs. It will provide access to fresh foods rather than artificially preserved ones for urban dwellers and boost employment, a critical issue for cities with large populations.

At the same time, rural parts of the country will receive new support from the government with a string of schemes, including incentives for “reverse migration” by producing “pilot villages” which will improve infrastructure in the villages and incentives for more production. An income protection insurance will also be widely available for farmers in rural areas to keep the economy in those regions stable and ensure the sustainability of agricultural production.

In addition, small family businesses earning a living on livestock will be supported by the government. Among the measures to ensure sustainability, the living circumstances of animals will be improved to prevent their sudden deaths and projects will be implemented to boost the productivity of animals bred for their meat or milk.

Under the motto “just grow it,” the government’s plan seeks to provide all-out support for farmers, with less red tape and in a simplified way, instead of branching out the cash and other assistance. Türkiye will also enact specialized laws for topics relevant to agriculture, such as the Tea Law, Land Protection and Land Use Law, Water Law, Pasture Law and more to protect the rights and interests of farmers as well as the environment and to prevent unregistered agricultural production. The pre-production permits set to be imposed are designed to better manage crop diversity and prevent any future yield losses.

The government will also focus on supply security, setting up a monitoring system and branching out supply sources, with planned bilateral agreements with other countries. Though industrialization gathered pace in the past two decades, with exports soaring, Türkiye is also an important country for agriculture, ranking 31st in the world in terms of agricultural production areas and first in Europe in terms of crop yields. Its agricultural national income reached to TL 407 billion in 2021, a 10-fold rise since 2002 while the agricultural sector’s share in employment decreased to 17%. Between 2002 and 2021, agriculture’s share in exports rose to 11%.

Türkiye has been offering a string of incentives to farmers since 2002, with subsidies reaching to TL 24.5 billion. Another TL 305 billion was provided for agricultural production between 2002 and 2021. In the past two decades, livestock producers received TL 108 billion in subsidies.

Between 2002 and 2021, the state distributed free loans worth TL 7 billion to 18,000 projects involving agricultural investment and produced 118,000 jobs.