Turkish farmers struggle with drought, pandemic's financial strain

Agricultural workers in Turkey have been experiencing challenges as a result of a drought that hindered production, and further strained their finances amid the COVID-19 pandemic that's brought on global fiscal crises.

Duvar English

Turkey's agricultural workers are experiencing an exceptionally difficult year between a drought that hindered production, and a lack of state support during the pandemic, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Dec. 1. 

Turkey experienced historically dry months of September and October, which delayed farmers planting their crops, said Baki Remzi Suiçmez, chairman of Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects Chambers (TMMOB).

"Even if they plant, the seeds can't grow because of low humidity. That hinders production," Suiçmez noted. 

The solution to farmers' weather liability is to increase investment in irrigation systems in a methodical way, preferably carried out by the State Water Works (DSİ), the chairman said. 

"They signed a contract with the public housing authority (TOKİ) instead of enforcing the state irrigation works. They channeled TOKİ into this industry since construction is shrinking."

Agricultural watering requires industry-specific knowledge, the chairman noted, adding that TOKİ wasn't able to satisfy the requirements of the field. 

The state also impedes farmers with above-market interest rates and gas prices, which agriculture workers are forced to resort to as they don't have enough capital on hand, Suiçmez noted.

A pandemic relief legislation that was promising to relieve workers in Turkey failed to restructure agricultural loan payments which usually default to six months' return and strain farmers, the chairman said.

Meanwhile, the state's solution to farmers' struggles has been to import crops instead of supporting the industry, the chairman added.