World Economy

Energy Plants Threaten Turkey Olive Groves

Energy Plants Threaten Turkey Olive GrovesEnergy Plants Threaten Turkey Olive Groves

The anticipated construction of energy plants in some of Turkey’s most important olive groves risks the loss of a valuable asset and a denting of the country’s competitive power as a leading olive and olive oil exporter to the global market, sector representatives warn.

A recent Cabinet decision to expropriate land in 15 provinces for energy projects will also mean the destruction of valuable olive groves, a major concern for producers in Turkey’s strategically important olive industry, Today’s Zaman reported.

Following the Cabinet decision in September, the government quickly began to expropriate land for hydroelectric plants and wind farm projects in order to expand electricity distribution capacity.

Olive growers and exporters are warning that the expropriation includes some of Turkey’s most productive olive groves and that this will deal a major blow to olive production, impacting the country’s ability to compete with rivals in world olive markets.

  Major Setback

Turkey is the world’s fourth-largest olive and olive oil producer after Spain, Italy and Greece, contributing 10 percent of the olive and 6 percent of the olive oil production to the global market. Exporters had predicted annual exports of olives to reach $3.8 billion by 2023, a target that is almost certain to be compromised following the decision to open olive groves to energy firms.

According to head of Turkey’s National Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK) Murat Narin, if the government maintains its decision to replace these olive groves with energy plants, Turkey might lose its seat at the UN-backed global body, the International Olive Council (IOC).

“Recent government moves contradict basic IOC criteria, which include protecting olive groves. … Losing the IOC seat would be a major setback and harm Turkey’s image,” Narin asserts. He said olive producers in Turkey have had to deal with six separate government proposals making changes to the laws regulating the olive industry since 2002, when the ruling party came to power.

The government predicted annual production would reach 650,000 tons for olive oil and 1.2 million tons for table olives in 2023.

The government should immediately withdraw the expropriation decision according to Ozden Gungor, head of the Chamber of Agricultural Engineers (ZMO), who said in a written statement on Monday that the energy plants will also hurt the production capacity of nearby olive groves due to the air pollution the plants will create. Underlining that the immediate expropriation of olive groves contradicts the law, Ozden warned that it will be a major challenge for Turkey to compensate for the anticipated loss in olive production.