A parliamentary question about Syrian-imported olives was denied a response by Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Ministry on the grounds that the information requested was a “trade secret.”
Presented by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mehmet Güzelmansur, the parliamentary question asked about the quantities of olive oil imported from the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin, how the produce is inspected, how many firms sell imported produce in Turkey’s market and if these companies had been fined.
Güzelmansur noted that the conditions of the olive oil import was that the produce would be exported out of Turkey, but that a lack of regulation resulted in the release of the product to domestic markets.
“According to Turkish Statistical Institute’s 2019 Foreign Trade Data, $44.5 million dollars worth of olive oil was imported from Afrin,” Güzelmansur said. “As a result, the price of domestic olive oil dropped to 3-4 Turkish lira per litre.”
‘Is smuggling considered trade?’
Güzelmansur noted that Turkey’s producers were unable to sell products even at cost, and that producers and merchants were at a loss because of the imported olive oil on the market.
“The information we’re asking for is not about people who trade according to regulations, it’s about people who break the law, who victimize people,” Güzelmansur said.
The information that is not being revealed under the guise of “trade secrets” is actually about smuggling, Güzelmansur said, implying that the Afrin imports were illegal.
“Since when is smuggling considered trade?”
Parliament arguments about Afrin imports
Olive imports from Afrin were a topic of discussion in Parliament during 2020 budget meetings at the end of 2019.
CHP Vice Chair Ünal Çeviköz had said that exporting Syrian olive products from Turkey wasn’t a step towards Syria’s liberation.
“You can’t establish Syrian territorial integration, political sovereignty and independence by exporting olive oil from Turkey that the Free Syrian Army stole in Afrin,” Çeviköz said, sparking major debate.
Uğur Aydemir, a deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said that the people of Afrin grow olives and produce olive oil, and if Turkey didn’t buy them, “Who would?”
A deputy from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) said that Aydemir admitted to the purchase of olive products.
“Yes I admit! They are brought into Turkey, we admit. What would we have done, leave it to the PKK?”
Aydemir said that Turkey would never accept stolen goods and that the country is merely helping local producers sell their product.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that olives and olive oil from Syria were “re-exported” through Turkey.
“The revenue from the sale is distributed to land owners. So there’s no theft or anything here,” Çavuşoğlu said.