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

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

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.

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