FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Turkey moves to raise the profile of its horticultural products

From black figs to table olives, Turkey’s Bursa region is famous for its fruits and vegetables. Turkey now hopes to strengthen the reputation of Bursa’s horticultural products at home and abroad, helping to raise producer incomes and building sustainable, inclusive food systems.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and FAO are working with national authorities and private parties to develop quality and origin-based labels such as geographical indications, or GIs.

Turkey already has some registered GIs, but the country’s GI certification and control system is underdeveloped. FAO and the EBRD are working on a pilot GI for Bursa’s black figs, based on good certification and control practices and aimed at getting the GI registered – both in Turkey and in the European Union.

Among other activities, the two organizations arranged a four-day study tour in March to France’s Rhône-Alpes region for 15 Turkish producers – including suppliers of EBRD clients, researchers, certifiers and government representatives – to learn more about protecting and promoting GIs.

Benefits of GIs
Globally, GI food products pull in around USD 50 billion a year. For example, France’s hundreds of registered GIs – from world-renowned Champagne to Roquefort cheese – are vital to the country’s agriculture and a lifeline for thousands of farmers.

“The use of official quality and origin signs has transformed our agrifood sector, preserving high-quality agriculture and the economic vitality of our regions,” said Christèle Mercier, Director of GIs in France’s National Institute for Product Origin and Quality, which ensures the recognition and protection of official marks or “signs.”

France’s success is due in part to a positive environment in the form of institutional, legal and regulatory frameworks set up to help GIs to find a place in the market.

“There is excellent investment potential in Turkey, especially with consumers increasingly interested in quality, safety and tradition,” said Nadia Petkova, Associate Director and Head of Agribusiness for Turkey at the EBRD. “As we’ve seen in France and other countries, registering products under GIs also builds trust between local producers and buyers, which only strengthens the sector.”

Cooperation and perseverance
Cooperation between producers is essential for a successful GI. The group witnessed that level of cooperation first hand during a stop in the Haute-Savoie region where they learned more about the apples and pears for which France got its first fruit GI.

To register the GI, Union of Savoy apple and pear producers worked together for nearly a decade, agreeing on production methods, quality standards and control, distribution and marketing.

Today, the region sells around 15,000 tonnes of its fruit annually, in France and Europe. Producers continue to test innovative growing techniques on new varieties that maintain the distinctive qualities and characteristics that set Savoy apples and pears apart on the market.

“I’m inspired by how well the French union worked together to overcome obstacles and get this official recognition,” said Osman Özkan, President of the Black Fig Producers Union in Bursa. “Though we still have some way to go, I feel we are one step closer to attaining a GI for our famous black figs.”

Carving out an organic niche
Another way to carve out a niche in the market is with organic farming. The study group visited Agrobiodrôm, a cooperative of organic fruit and vegetable producers, where they learned about the cooperative’s relations with producers, traders and retailers.

They also visited a small organic peach producer who, by using more environmentally friendly cultivation techniques, is producing high-quality peaches that fetch higher and more stable prices – both in France and abroad.

Driving rural development through tourism
A GI’s success also relies on good marketing. The group travelled to Nyons, which has built a vibrant tourism industry around its distinctive table olives and olive oils – thanks in large part to marketing help from Coopérative Nyonnaise.

Tourists visit the region to enjoy the beautiful landscapes, Mediterranean climate and relaxed way of life, but also to sample and buy the local food products.

Turkey’s Bursa region can also form linkages between fruit production and the tourism sector. With its hot springs and thermal baths, ski resorts and Marmara Sea, the region – nicknamed Green Bursa – could tap into this potential.

“The Turkish participants were very impressed by the way their French counterparts are marketing their products, designing attractive labels and merchandise and educating the public about GIs,” said Maria Ricci, an FAO project coordinator. “They saw how much can be done by linking terroir products with agritourism.”

Next steps for EBRD, FAO and Turkey: finalization of the code of practice for Bursa black figs and development of certification options for GIs in Turkey.

2 May 2017, Ankara, Turkey