AMANDA – Turkey is happy to fill Russian shelves

Turkey is happy to fill Russian shelvesWhile EU member states calculate the financial impact of Russiaand#39s recently announced ban on numerous agricultural products, Turkeyand#39s leadership seems to be rubbing its hands together in glee, calculating how much it can gain from the situation.On Aug.

6, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning imports of agricultural and food products from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia Moscow has banned beef, pork, poultry and dairy products, as well as fruit and vegetables from the EU, US, Canada, Australia and Norway for one yearAccording to figures from the European Commission, some 10 percent of EU agricultural exports go to Russia annually with a total value of around 11 billion euro. Hence, rather a large gap has been left on Russian shelves with Moscow looking for new suppliers and Turkey is happy to oblige.

Despite developments in Ukraine, including Russiaand#39s illegal annexation of Crimea and the horrendous impact it has had on the Tatars there, Ankara has no qualms about increasing ties with Russia Since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Turkey has had rather an ambiguous position, being very careful not to say or do anything that could damage its increasingly close relationship with RussiaIt is no secret that Turkey was keen to deepen trade ties with Russia long before this crisis. In the past seven months, Turkeyand#39s exports to Russia were valued at $7.

09 billion, with the main export products being textiles, yarn, fabrics, manufactured goods, vegetables and fruits. In 2013, Turkey was the fifth leading supplier of food to Russia, with $1.

68 billion worth of trade consisting of mainly fruit, vegetables and nuts.Hence, if Ankara can increase its trade turnover with Russia as a consequence of the food ban, it will happily do it.

Not only will it bring more money to the Turkish economy, but it will strengthen Turkeyand#39s position in this relationship, which is presently tipped in Russiaand#39s favor Turkish Finance Minister Nihat Zeybeki, could have not been clearer when he stated that the ongoing crisis between Russia and the West was an andldquoopportunityandrdquo for AnkaraTalks have apparently started between Ankara and Moscow. According to Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM)hairman Mehmet BuyukekIi, Turkey expects a significant increase in the export of poultry and seafood as well as fruit and vegetables.

A precise list of produce has yet to be drawn up.Some produce will be unavailable for export, as certain crops have suffered due to extreme weather conditions.

A recent report by the Turkish Union of Agricultural Chambers (TZOB) reveals that agricultural yields have dropped significantly in some regions (20-80 percent). Fruit production was badly affected by frost and drought, including in Malatya, the home of Turkeyand#39s apricot crop.

Ankaraand#39s eagerness to andldquofill the gapandrdquo has not gone down well with some EU member states. Greece has been particularly vocal.

Russiaand#39s decision came as a significant blow to Greek farmers, as 41 percent of Greek exports to Russia are related to agricultural products. While Greek farmers are due to be compensated for some losses, along with farmers from a number of other member states, significant concerns remain.

Furthermore, coming at a time when Greece (and the eurozone more broadly) is slowly starting to recover from the recent financial crisis, the timing could not be worse.A statement from the Greek Foreign Ministry asserts that andldquothe EU and Euroatlantic partners also need to make the speedy realization that we cannot have countries that are candidates for accession to the EU — countries that are in fact members of the Alliance — participating andagrave la carte in European policy and benefitting from the cost being paid by the member states.

andrdquoSuch statements will be taken with a pinch of salt in Ankara, not least because as a consequence of the politicization of Turkeyand#39s EU membership talks, with some member states unnecessarily blocking the opening of many negotiating chapters, the process is on death row.Furthermore, Turkey is not the only country set to gain.

Switzerland, wishing to maintain its andldquoneutrality,andrdquo has refused to blindly follow EU sanctions. According to the Swiss Farmerand#39s Union (SBV-USP), a significant increase in cheese exports to Russia is expected.

The difference is that Turkey has been far more vocal in terms of how it can gain. But then I would not have expected anything else.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman