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"Watermelon production increased thanks to equal rainfall distribution and suitable temperatures"

The watermelon is one of the most grown fruits in Turkish agriculture, says Tarkan Kocakurt, CEO of Turkish fresh produce exporter Heptaze: "Agriculture is an important sector that has met the nutritional needs of people and animals from past to present. Watermelon, which has an important place in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, is a fibrous fruit with high water content and nutritional value. In the 2023 production season, 3.9 million tons of watermelon were produced in Turkey."

According to Kocakurt, Adana is at the heart of the Turkish watermelon cultivation. "The province where most watermelons are grown is Adana, 23% of the production took place here. Antalya ranks second, with a production rate of 12%. On a regional basis, most of the production takes place in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Southeastern Anatolia. The watermelon is an important element of Turkey's agricultural sector and contributes to both the economy and the livelihood of farmers. Turkey is among the top watermelon producers worldwide, largely due to its favorable climatic conditions, fertile soil and strong horticultural tradition."

The past few years, the weather hasn't always made the growing of watermelons easy, but Kocakurt states that this year, weather conditions have been more positive: "In 2022, the weather conditions negatively affected watermelon production. Drought in particular increased the need for irrigation and increased the overall costs. Extreme temperatures reduced fruit development and quality. In 2023, weather conditions were more stable than the year before. Especially regular rains increased productivity. Localized hail and storms caused serious damage in some areas. Looking at the current year, weather conditions continue to be generally positive. Productivity increased thanks to equal rainfall distribution and suitable temperatures."

Compared to last year, this year's watermelon production has increased, Kocakurt explains. "This year, the Turkish watermelon production increased by 12% compared to 2023. There's been no increase in the acreage. I think there'll be changes in watermelon production in the future, because it is not a very important export product in foreign trade and domestic consumption has remained at the same levels for years. Watermelon production quantities and prices are not in balance, causing excessive price fluctuations during the production season. This situation negatively affects export operations and therefore exports are not as high."

Over the past few years, the export markets for Turkish watermelons have become quite diverse, Kocakurt says. "In addition to European and Middle Eastern markets, Russia and some Asian countries have become important export points. Turkey generally exports its watermelons to the following countries: Germany, Netherlands, England, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries."

According to Kocakurt, there have been several major challenges for the Turkish watermelon industry, such as high costs: "Due to the economic fluctuation and high inflation experienced in Turkey since the beginning of 2024, there have been great increases in the costs and taxes of inputs such as fertilizers, medicines and seeds, fuel and labor. The workforce has shifted entirely to workers who entered the country illegally, and farmers who cannot afford their legal expenses turn a blind eye to the employment of illegal/immigrant workers. Farmers who cannot get good prices from brokers leave their products in the field and do not collect them, which causes the product to be sold at very high prices in the markets. The number of farmers engaged in plant production in Turkey is decreasing day by day. A growing number of people believe this is a purely political decision or part of a larger game."

"In our country, watermelon prices are determined in the free market and producers sometimes find themselves in a difficult situation against the prices in the market. In this regard, producers need to establish unions, specialize and develop cooperatives. Costs can be reduced by bulk purchasing through cooperatives. Laws that will encourage agricultural labor should be enacted by the state, and support should be provided to agricultural labor. Incentives, such as tax exemption and fuel tax exemption, should be provided to farmers who use such workers," Kocakurt concludes.

For more information:
Tarkan Kocakurt
Email: [email protected]