Nowadays, agriculture, faring, and food do not just mean nourishment. The agriculture sector gains greater importance every day, in terms of public sector policies.
Consumers’ expectations in quality assurance are on the rise. In such an atmosphere, researches towards new approaches in the agriculture sector are inevitable. Organic agriculture is probably the most important outcome of what is being researched. The word “organic” creates an image of nature and health in one’s mind. Organic agriculture or ecological farming has a meaning that goes far beyond that. According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, IFOAM, organic agriculture is a production system that protects the soil, ecosystem, and human health. It is based on a cycle of ecological processes, bio-diversity and production suitable for local conditions, instead of adverse inputs. It aims to gather tradition and science in a way to protect the environment, to promote fair production ratios and to increase everyone’s quality of living.
THE BREAKOUT IN 90’S
As seen here, we don’t talk of farming, but of a system of values. The roots of organic agriculture go back to the first half of the 20th century, during which the use of artificial fertilizers and mechanical farming continued to spread worldwide. Leading scientists worried about the developments and began investigating traditional farming methods, which began the commencement of experiments on the fields. In a way, they re-invented the traditional methods.
Organic agriculture was left in the shed until the 1970’s. Suddenly, as public movements and as environmentalist movements began to rise, there was a sudden interest in organic production and organic products. In the 1980’s, organic agriculture spread to different countries – including Turkey – and in the 1990’s the demand for organic products boomed. Since then, organic agriculture that has never lost its potential growth, has reached a scale of USD 50 billion. In fact, the share of the organic agriculture in global agriculture goes no further than marginal. The total amount of arable land allocated for organic production is around 30 - 35 million hectares. This figure is less than one percent of total arable land.
On the other hand, added value of organic agriculture is huge. 97% of the demands for organic products are from North America and Europe, i.e. from the regions with great buying potential. Consumers that prefer these to conventional products think that they have superior characteristics. Hence, they accept to pay an additional premium for the quality of organic products; this way, although production drops in agricultural
establishments that convert to organic agriculture, a considerable increase in revenues is experienced.However, the demand for organic products is very flexible. Increasing the price gap with conventional products means a drop in demand. For this reason, marketing has a great importance in the organic sector.Organic architecture has various other advantages besides increased revenues. First of all, organic agriculture requires more man power. Therefore agricultural employment increase, and in regions where organic agriculture is spread, unemployment is reduced to some extent. Rural and ecotourism potentials also come into perspective. In short, organic agriculture also contributes to rural development and solving social problems such as migration.
All these are within the framework of a capitalistic approach. Organic agriculture also has some uses that cannot be valued with money, such as protection of the environment, sustaining bio-diversity and rural scenery. The works also show that converting to organic farming from conventional agriculture has positive effects on global problems, such as climate change.
THE CONDITION IN TURKEY
In Turkey, organic farming was initiated by a private firm in 1985, for exportation to Europe. In the beginning, it was for export purposes only and under a sales contract. Today, 15,000 agriculture establishments produce 250 different products in 165,000 hectares of land. The Aegean region is in the lead, with the leading product being organic cotton. On the other hand, Turkey’s share in the global organic market is quite low. According to official figures, exports are around USD 30 million. Estimated internal consumption is around USD 5 million. When these figures are considered, Turkey’s share is not even one percent of the global market. However, Turkey is in an ideal position, both commercially and agriculturally, with its closeness to Europe, climate diversity and geographical conditions
Then, what is the problem? If we consider per capita income, it is obvious that a strong internal demand is not able to occur. Although organic local markets in recent years started to supply organic products at economically feasible prices, it does not look as though the status will change in the near future. Therefore, we need to focus on exports. Our biggest weakness seems to be in organizing marketing and production, but not in production and marketing!