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Agriculture and food are amongst the most strategic sectors of the world. We all have better realized this fact due to climate change, global warming, drought, effects of the pandemic, and the Russo-Ukrainian war. Our national economy is based on agriculture whereas the most significant element of agricultural production is the seed. Hence, seed and seed growing sector should be considered with the same perspective.
Production and procurement conditions differing due to climatic changes, technological developments and pandemic both strengthen and transform this particular mission. The impact of the changing food safety and security on agricultural production begins from the field, the garden, or in other words from the seed.
On the other hand, the seed growing sector is a gigantic sector that comprises of separate economic activities, and covers plant breeding, cultivation, industry, distribution, marketing, sales, and import-export processes.
Türkiye Seed Union founded in late 2008 and currently holding a membership of 75 thousand is not only focused on seed. We are also providing a wide range of services including fruit seedling production, vegetable seed cultivation, and ornamental plants.
One of the outstanding parameters in the growth of the seed growing sector is the rise in the production and use of certified seeds. While the Turkish seed production was at the level of 145 thousand tones in 2000, it rose up to 325 thousand tones in 2007, to 497 thousand tones in 2010 with the efforts of the private sector and with the positive effects of the supports of certified seed use and growing. This level exceeded 1 million tones in 2017 and reached 1 million 360 thousand tones by the end of 2022.
Certified seed production has increased by 500% during the past 15 years since the foundation of our Union in 2008. In addition, the production of seedlings, saplings, and ornamental plants increased sharply.
The fruit seedling and strawberry seedling production of around 138 million in the year 2016 rose up to 240 million seedlings in 2022 while the vegetable seedling production of 4 billion increased to 5 billion 500, and 1 billion 710 thousand ornamental plants were produced with an increase of 200 thousand.
The private sector performs 71,5% of the wheat seed production, 86% of barley production, 100% of the vegetable, sunflower, maize, potatoes, cotton, and soy seeds, and 85% of the forage crops saplings. 77% of the certified varieties are owned by the private sector. The rate of meeting our needs with indigenous and domestic production accounts for over 100% while it is close to 100% in other products.
The same success was achieved in foreign trade. Seed growing sector is a sector with a foreign trade surplus since 2018. Our seed export was at 232.7 million dollars in 2022 while our import was at 169.6 million dollars. We have a trade surplus of 63.1 million dollars.
By the end of 2022, we have reached a foreign trade surplus of 400% for seedlings and 300% for ornamental plants. Our total exports amount to 400 million dollars, imports to 226 million dollars, foreign trade surplus to 174 million dollars. At present we export seeds to 121 countries among which are the U.S., the global leader in seed growing, China ranking the second place globally and France ranking the third. There is no single European country that we are not exporting products to. We are selling seeds to the Turkic countries, Middle East, Gulf States, and Africa.
We also produce seeds in line with the demands of the foreign markets and we import the seeds that we cannot normally produce in our country with a view to reexporting in the future. Currently same applies to those countries that started to develop their seed growing sectors one hundred years ago.
But there is no such thing as ‘dependence on foreign resources, importation or certain countries.
R&D Studies Should Be Supported
Generating knowledge and technology is a must for having a say in agriculture. Necessary investments should be made in R&D studies to generate adequate level of knowledge and technology. However expenditures allocated to R&D in our country account for only a few more than 1% of the GDP.
This rate is 5% in South Korea, 4% in Japan, 3% in the U.S. while the average is 2.5% in OECD countries and 2% in the EU member states. As you can see, our country has not yet allocated necessary budget to this field.
Particularly climate change, drought and the new requirements of pandemic increase expectations from the seed growing sector.
Based on the fact that agriculture starts with seeds, the R&D efforts should be brought to the maximum level. Efforts should be made to develop national policies in the strategic seed growing sector that uses seeds as the most important input of agriculture.
Above all, national policy means national variety.
I cordially celebrate May 14th, World Farmers’ Day and call on our farmers to use indigenous and national seeds that are equivalent with the foreign varieties in respect of efficiency and quality.