Turkey begins exporting tomatoes to Russia
After almost two years Russia levied import sanctions on Turkish tomatoes, which had gained a symbolic meaning for the bilateral ties between Turkey and Russia, the first shipment has been made from the Bergama district of İzmir province
RUSSIA’S ban on Turkish tomatoes has finally been lifted, with the first shipment from İzmir’s Bergama being loaded on to trucks. Turkey used to provide 70 percent of Russia’s tomatoes until the jet crisis of November 2015.
THE PROTRACTED negotiations to lift the ban imposed on Turkish tomato exports to Russia, which have topped the agenda of Turkish-Russian talks for a long time since January 2016, recently yielded positive results, with Russia agreeing to import Turkish tomatoes on a limited basis. With the lifting of the restrictions, the first shipment to Russia has been made from the Bergama district of İzmir province.
Tomatoes harvested in Bergama’s Agrobay greenhouses were loaded onto trucks and sent to Russia’s leading retail chain in St. Petersburg.
The tomatoes will be delivered to 750 grocery stores across the country.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Agrobay Greenhouse board member Arzu Şentürk said the board signed a contract to export 5,000 tons of tomatoes this year with Russia, adding that they had delivered 10,000 tons of tomatoes prior to the jet downing crisis of November 2015.
Şentürk said the reopening of the tomato export market is good, noting that the political developments surrounding the jet downing crisis had resulted in the halting of shipments to Russia, despite the signing of a sales contract with the Russian grocery chain last year.
Explaining that Agrobay Greenhouse penned the agreement with the Russian market chain, one of Russia’s biggest discount store chains, and sent the first product, Şentürk recalled that the Russian market had been the biggest market for Turkey since 2003, adding that the 10,000 tons of tomatoes delivered prior to the jet downing crisis were part of the 14,000 tons in annual production formerly slated for export to Russia prior to the crisis.
“Since the closing of the tomato export market to Russia last year, we have increased our domestic market share to 65 percent and found new customers in Europe. Even though Russian buyers want a big portion of our capacity, we will not give them,” Şentürk said, adding that Agrobay Greenhouse has made a deal for the export of 5,000 tons of tomato and aims to increase this number to a priceoriented 7,000 tons.
“According to market owners in Russia, tomatoes were sold for $30 per kilogram last year, which is why consumption was very low. I think that this import will be good for Russians as well, considering that we made the first shipments at $1.50 per kilogram,” he said.
Explaining that Agrobay Greenhouse has turned down the offers of some Russian companies for joint investments in the process, Şentürk stressed that they will maintain the policy of reducing Turkey’s dependence on the Russian market in the future and take measures to expand in markets across the Middle East and the U.S.
Turkey, which formerly provided 70 percent of tomato exports to Russia, was placed under a Russian embargo effective on Jan. 1, 2016, following the downing of a Russian warplane that violated Turkish airspace.
The country imposed import sanctions on many Turkish products such as tomatoes, oranges, apples, apricots, broccoli, mandarins, pears, chickens and turkeys, however the ban was later lifted after normalization talks began, except for tomatoes.
After rapprochement between the two countries, the two parties reached an agreement on the shipment of Turkish tomatoes to the Russian market with an annual capacity of 50,000 tons.
After the Russian embargo, the amount of tomato exports to the country decreased by 10.3 percent while their value dropped by 34.3 percent in 2016. However, during the first seven months of 2017, the amount of tomatoes exported to Russia increased by 9.4 percent and the value of tomato exports also surged by 24.7 percent.
Turkey exported 541,000 tons of tomatoes to Russia in 2015, however, the amount fell to 486,000 tons in 2016. The value of tomato exports to the country was $365.3 million in 2015 and decreased to $239.9 million the next year.
During the period of January-July, Turkey’s tomato exports to Russia reached $198.3 million from last year’s $159 million. Moreover, last year, the amount of “the symbol vegetable” exports were recorded at 322,000 tons while it reached to 353,000 tons this year during the first seven months.
Meanwhile, it was reported that Russia will possibly seek to import a special type of apple harvested in the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaraş in a special region known as “the Mediterranean Siberia.” The Göksun apple, which is named for the region where it is grown at an altitude of 1,350 meters, is considered a high-quality apple in terms of its taste, color and aroma, and because of the high fluctuations in daytime and nighttime temperatures in the area. The fruit is currently exported to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen and Iraq. Now, Russia and India have indicated demand for Göksun apple imports.
The first round of Turkish tomato exports started from a greenhouse in İzmir after the import ban was lifted.