Black Sea region farmers protest against export permits that could cost $120 million

Farmers held a protest in the Black Sea province of Çorum on Jan. 26 against a new requirement that farmers have a permit for exporting onions and potatoes. A spokesperson for the farmers said that there was excess, unsold stock worth $120 million that could not be sold due to lack of permits. “We have customers lined up for this produce and we're getting ready to toss it," said spokesperson Yusuf Özküçükgöz.

Elvan Yılmaz / Duvar

Hundreds of farmers gathered in the Black Sea province of Çorum to protest potatoes and onions having been added to the list of products that require a permit to export. They were joined in their protest on Jan. 26 by deputies of main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), village leaders and members of farmers' unions.

Earlier this month, the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry added potatoes and onions to the list of produce that requires a permit before exportation in an attempt to prevent a shortage of the vegetables due to high export levels.

Selling a product that costs farmers 75 kuruş for only 50 kuruş upsets farmers, Yusuf Özküçükgöz said on behalf of the producers, noting that it's even more saddening that the same product gets sold off the shelves for 5 lira.

"We have 350,000, 400,000 tons of onions in stock, which is 250,000-300,000 more tons than what our country needs. We have customers lined up for this produce and we're getting ready to toss it," Özküçükgöz said.

Küçükgöz said that $120 million's worth of onions are sitting at the Mersin Port while farmers await a permit to sell. The regulations to sell excess product say that they must be sold within 10 to 15 days.

"If the ministry doesn't export them, we'll be throwing away $120 million. This money isn't the farmer's, it's the country's," Özküçükgöz said.

Özküçükgöz added that the requirement for a permit effectively bans the export of onions and potatoes.

"We are not marketers. We can't determine the demand and supply equilibrium," Özküçükgöz said.

The protesters held up signs that read "Farmers for sale from the Agriculture Ministry," "If you ate today, you owe it to farmers," and "Agriculture is the foundation of the national economy."