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Turkey: Citrus growers in Mersin refuse to sell harvest at low prices

Arriving with the citrus-harvesting season, a hot discussion over citrus prices has spread across the eastern Mediterranean city of Mersin, Turkey’s main supplier of the fruits.

While some producers refuse to sell their harvested citrus now, when the prices are lower than expected, preferring to keep their harvest until prices rise, authorities express satisfaction with the prices, saying that any increase or decrease would harm the sector.

In Mersin, specifically in the city’s Erdemli district, citrus prices have decreased to 40 or 50 kuruş as of the beginning of the harvesting period, which will continue until March. The region supplies more than 70 percent of Turkey’s citrus needs on a total area of 140 million square meters.

Mahire Can, chairman of the Silifke Chamber of Agriculture, said that the growers have suffered from the decreasing citrus prices.

“Citrus was sold at prices beginning from 1 Turkish Lira two years ago, but the prices have been on the decrease. Those growers who do not need cash urgently prefer to keep their crop for some time and sell it when the prices increase, instead of selling it now at lower prices,” said Can.

Mehmet İnci, a citrus grower in Mersin, echoed the idea that prices were lower than they expected this year.

“Although the prices of fertilizers and pesticides, as well as labor costs, have increased, the citrus prices are going down year by year. How can a grower be expected to get what he deserves and to make a profit under these conditions?” he asked.

İhsan Ermiş, another citrus grower, also said he would not sell his crop at the current prices. He said he would keep it until the prices reached a level that would cover his yearlong struggle.

“I am doing this as a job; I make my living by growing citrus. How can I sell it at a lower price than my total cost?” he asked.

‘Growers are happy’

Cemalettin Kurt, chairman of the Mersin Citrus Fruits Growers Union, or MERTÜB, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that the current situation was nothing but manipulation, which is open to exploitation by citrus-importing countries unless prevented as soon as possible.

“The citrus prices are around 1 lira, which pleases the growers. We want to keep the prices at this level,” said Kurt. “Not only low prices, but also high prices worry us; if the growers keep the prices high, no one can know how much they will be when arriving at the market, especially when the intermediary commissions are considered.”

Erdemli Mayor Mükerrem Tollu took a moderate approach, telling the Daily News that there was nothing wrong with keeping some amount of citrus for the coming term instead of selling it now.

“This case is not specific to Erdemli or Mersin; the growers in Antalya and Adana do the same thing,” Tollu said. “The rationale behind this practice is meeting the citrus demand both in the domestic and in the international markets when there is not enough supply.”

The mayor further added that if the growers did not keep some portion of citrus for the next term, the supply would be in excess of the demand, pushing prices down, and potentially giving rise to a citrus shortage during the summer.

Because it is now harvest time, which means that the rate of supply is high, it is quite normal to sell the crop at relatively low prices, Tollu said, adding that this citrus-keeping practice ensures a balance in the market.

“It stabilizes the rates of supply and demand, and is being applied in every citrus-growing city, including Adana, Antalya and Mersin,” he added.

20 percent increase in citrus exports

While discussions are ongoing in the citrus-growing Mediterranean cities, the export potential of the sector is also increasing.

Emphasizing that Turkey has fewer rivals in citrus export during the winter, Kurt noted that the outbreak of the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, has forced countries such as Russia and Ukraine to import more citrus from Turkey this year.

“As a result, the total citrus export has increased by 20 percent this year despite the crisis,” he said. “While the citrus export figures were as much as $300 million in previous years, we expect them to go up to $450 million this year, which is serious growth for Turkey.”


Publication date: 12/4/2009


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