Drought threatens food production, livelihoods across Turkey

Insufficient rainfall since February has threatened the livelihoods of thousands across Turkey, where some regions have seen precipitation decrease by up to 60 percent.

The southeast of the country has been hit particularly hard, with a lack of rain over the autumn resulting in an early harvest of reduced yields of wheat and barley.

Grazing pastures remain dry, with grass growing by less than an inch in some places. Feed prices have rocketed as a result, leaving farmers struggling to make ends meet.

Water levels in many dams have already fallen to 10 to 15 percent. This includes Dumluca in Mardin province, where 5 to 6 million acres of agricultural lands under the government’s flagship Southeastern Anatolia Project face drought amid rising temperatures.  

Farming groups warn products such as lentils, wheat, and bread will double in price next year as production fails to meet demand, leaving the country dependent on imports.

“When the state does not support its own producers, then it supports the producers of other countries,” Hüseyin Demirtaş, president of the Agriculturalists Association, told Ahval.

“Agricultural inputs have already increased by 150 percent and the farmers are in debt,” he said. “Farmers are unprotected.”

Turkey’s agricultural lands have high potential, but there is no joined-up policy and planning, he added. “As a result, the prices of diesel fuel, electricity and water rose. Fertiliser prices rose.”

Opposition parties say the government has not done enough to avoid a predictable crisis.

“While it was clear beforehand that a drought would occur, the state did not take any preventive measures, nor did it implement a policy to minimise the damage which farmers suffered as a result of the drought,” Cihan Ülsen, chair of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) in Diyarbakır province, told Ahval.   

“The damage caused to nature and the environment by the drought has not yet been fully discussed,” he said. “We will face the consequences later.”

Raising the issue in a parliamentary motion last month, Mardin deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Ebru Günay said the cost of agricultural inputs such as diesel, fertilisers, seeds, and pesticides had more than doubled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the failure of the government to act in the face of climate change has seen 35 percent of Mardin’s agricultural land dry up, she said.

The Mesopotamian plain, which produces half of the country’s agricultural exports, has been left without a crop this year bringing production to a standstill, she added.

Local farmer Mehmet Balık told Ahval the impact was being felt across the region.

“There is a water shortage in the lands and the cost of drilling a well is high,” he said.

“Farmers who buy water from the canals having difficulties in paying for both electricity and water.”

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.
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