Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, is multi-cultural, traditional, modern and colorful – the bridge between Asia and Europe.
Farming – a profession to give up on?
Today, the city is certainly all of those things combined. It’s a sunny Friday morning when the sales representative of the Istanbul region, Cevdet Ergün, meets Aysegul Uludag – my Turkish colleague - and me. While driving out of the city, sky scrapers become rarer. Between industrial areas, we see more and more yellow blooming oilseed rape fields.
We stop in a village called Ömerli, still in the area of Istanbul, and sit down in a café house. While we get a cup of the tasty Turkish black tea called çay, Necdet Yenici arrives. Necdet is an enthusiastic looking father of three kids, the owner of the small café house and a whole-hearted farmer. He orders a cup of çay too and starts to explain how he got into farming: “My parents were already farmers. It comes from my family. I learned everything from my father, from his experiences. Farming is what I really wanted to do.”
Today Necdet grows oilseed rape, sunflowers and wheat on about 200 hectares of land. He runs one of the largest farms in this region. But still, “Things are getting more and more difficult; the costs for fertilizers, for crop protection products and for fuel are rising. Sometimes my income is even less than the input costs. Mostly it’s equal, but since the prices have gone higher, it is harder for me to make a good living from it”, Necdet describes. Especially the fuel prices give him a hard time. They keep rising. “Turkey is one of the countries in the world were the fuel prices go up in the sky. If the price doesn’t fall again, it will get really difficult for me,” he continues, with a sad look in his eyes.
What will be the consequence for him as a farmer? It seems like the future outlook isn’t too optimistic. “I think about doing something totally different. I could turn this café house here into a supermarket. This would be an option but also a disappointment for me.” Necdet explains. He is not the only one.
The number of farmers is declining steadily. Farming seems to become a less and less attractive profession. I ask Necdet if he sees his children continuing in farming when they are grown up, he answers: “I don’t want my kids to be in agriculture, because it is too much work and too much pressure. I would want them to do something else.”
The declining number of farmers is not only true for Turkey but globally as well. For Necdet Yenici this problem is mainly related to the money. “This negative trend in farming can only stop if the input costs get lower; so that I can earn more money with the crops I grow. If the prices would be at least a little bit lower, many things would be different, completely different”.
I wish Necdet good luck for the future and hope that we all find ways to make farming more profitable and attractive again, so that it is worth for farmers to do this job – in Turkey and everywhere else in the world.