The WORLD, under the leadership of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), takes the pulse of the economy with the heads of chambers and commodity exchanges in 81 provinces. This week’s stop of the “Presidents are Talking” interview series was Tokat. Tokat Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Ali Çelik and Tokat Commodity Exchange President Lütfi Bora answered the questions of the WORLD.
We were the 4th largest exporting city in Turkey in 1947
Ali ÇELİK TOKAT CHAIRMAN OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY
The economy of Tokat was one of the 4 strongest economies in Anatolia in the last 1000 years. It achieved this by being on the route of Silk and Spice roads, fertile lands, geopolitical situation and hosting more than 14 civilizations. Again, until 1947, Tokat was one of the 4 provinces that paid the most taxes and exported the most in Turkey. With 7 plains and 2 rivers, we have perhaps the most fertile lands in Turkey and Anatolia. Our agricultural product range is over 100. Slap leaves, citrus fruits, grapes, tomatoes and peppers differ from the flavors of many cities in Turkey with their unique flavors. We have come to this situation because of the agricultural policies implemented in the country in the last 50 years. We don’t deserve where we are. The population of the city, which was around 850 thousand at the beginning of the 1990s, is around 600 thousand today. According to Turkey’s population growth rate, today’s population should have been at least 1 million 200 thousand. The population who could not feed themselves in the countryside migrated from here. Recently, the value of food, the pandemic, and the rising prices in big cities have started to reverse the situation a little bit.
80% OF THE URBAN ECONOMY IS AGRICULTURE
Economic activity started. 8 percent of the total marble reserves in Turkey is in Tokat. We also have many mines such as copper, coal and chrome. Slap writing is a strong 600-year-old tradition. For this reason, textiles traditionally come to the fore in our city. Most importantly, almost 80 percent of our economy is based on agriculture and agro-industry. We are one of the cities least affected by the pandemic. Our farmer is at peace with his land again. However, the right agricultural policies are needed. There were serious losses due to hydroelectric power plants and wild irrigation. Therefore, a closed, pressurized irrigation system should be used. Consolidation works of Süreyya Bey Dam and Alpudere Dam should be completed. Every year the farmer gets a surprise. It burned hot, frost hit, he couldn’t put fertilizer. For this, greenhouse cultivation is required. In addition, the products produced must be marketed and export routes must be opened. We are trying to bring together export companies and farmers. In the last 4 years, the added value we get from agriculture has more than doubled.
THE DEMANDS OF EUROPE AND THE USA COME TO US
Our industry has come a long way, too. We currently have 6 OIZs, 2 in the center and 2 in Turhal, Zile, Niksar and Erbaa. For the Food OIZ, we have an application to the Ministry of Industry for the location of the old Tokat airport. There is more than 80 investor demand in our Central OIZ. But we do not have any industrial parcels that we can allocate to investors. We are in the 6th Region in Incentive. This leads to an increase in our investments. We see the effect of the decrease in the demands of Europe and the USA from China from the increase in orders in Tokat. Especially our food and textile industry was positively active. For this reason, there will be a very serious demand for Gıda OIZ. They come and ask without opening the demands. This OSB will differentiate with its fully integrated structure. Our employment, which was 2 thousand in our OIZs, has quadrupled to reach 8 thousand in the last 4 years. I think that when our 3rd OIZ in the center and Food Specialized OIZ are finished, the employment in our OIZs will reach 15 thousand. A Floristry Specialized OIZ is also being established in Erbaa. Our plains are our source of life, we must protect them. Therefore, treatment facilities are very important in our OIZs.
WE WANT THE ÜNYE-NIKSAR ROAD FOR EXPORT TO THE BLACK SEA
One of the most valuable projects for the future of Tokat is the Ünye-Niksar road. However, everyone thinks that we want this road to have a comfortable and enjoyable trip to the beach. It doesn’t matter. We want to deliver the products we produce on our plains, our vegetables and fruits, to the port without spoiling. TIR’s lie to the right and left. The shelf life of our tomatoes and peaches decreases from 15-20 days to 3-4 days. We want this way to export to Black Sea countries.
SEBASTAPOLIS, 6 FLOOR LARGE OF EFES, IS HERE
Tokat TSO Chamber of Industry President Ali Çelik and Tokat TB President Lütfi Bora, Chairman of the Board Hakan Güldağ, General Coordinator Vahap Munyar, Editor-in-Chief Handan Sema Ceylan answered the questions. Presidents; “After Istanbul, we are the city with the highest number of registered historical artifacts in Anatolia. Tokat has a history of 6000 years. It is said that Sebastapolis, which hosted very old and powerful civilizations such as Komana and Sebastapolis, is 6 times larger than Ephesus. But the excavations are still 1.1%. In 1072, the first Turkish principality in Anatolia, Danişment, was established here. The first mosque of Anatolia is here. There are inns and baths. The Impaler Voyvoda was imprisoned in Tokat Castle for a long time. Our Ballica Cave is in the UNESCO heritage. We also see interest from abroad.”
The thirst is very serious, we do the watering with the gendarmerie.
Lütfi BORA HEAD OF TOKAT EXCHANGE COMMODITY
We had a good winter in terms of laying the groundwork for agricultural production in our Tokat. However, the drought problems from last year and the lack of reserves in our dam ponds continue. In the past years, Kazova, which is the biggest plain of our province, had a variety of products such as vegetables, fruits and pulses. This year, 90 percent of the planting there has shifted to corn. This created the need for irrigation. Our dams, channels and infrastructures were insufficient. Even irrigation was done under the control of the gendarmerie. About 75 percent of Turkey’s water resources are used in agriculture. And 80 percent of this is wild irrigation. Serious investments are urgently needed in the closed system. We are not water rich. We are not at the desired point at the point of land consolidation. You know the weight of agriculture and agriculture industry in Tokat.
THE POPULATION IN THE VILLAGES IS AGED
In Tokat, sowing barley and wheat shrank in decare. There are socioeconomic reasons for this. Migration from the villages continues, and those who do not leave are too old to be producers. Of course, this is not the general problem of Tokat, but of the whole of Turkey. The development of agricultural areas also affects us. These cause serious damage to agriculture. We should not forget the importance of irrigation. Now our irrigation units work with the gendarmerie for water security. We do not have any products that we increase in decares. The development of agricultural lands and the expansion of adjacent municipal areas is less in Tokat compared to many other cities. Agricultural lands opened for development cause serious damage to agriculture. We have a serious water shortage. Our Almus Dam is our greatest strength. In agricultural irrigation, the closed system should be switched to immediately, and pressure should be provided with the elevation difference from the dam. We have to reach our Turhal district by pipes. If we do not take water with pipes in these weathers, we lose 30 percent of the water by evaporation and 40 percent by cracks in the channel. We may have a bigger problem with irrigation next year. If we have a dry winter this winter, corn cultivation will be banned in our plain in 2023. Let’s not forget that the cultivation of corn in Amasya Suluova is prohibited. Our money is scarce in our country, our water is also scarce. Therefore, we need to use water efficiently. Those who produce fish in dam lakes move to dams of other cities. The lower the water level in the dam, the lower the oxygen level. This harms fisheries.