Farmers struggle in Turkey's troubled southeast

Numerous flour mills in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast have been forced to close as a result of the country’s economic crisis, undercutting farmers' livelihoods across the region. 

Agricultural brokers in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır have been left with unpaid bills after a series of mills closed down one after the other in nearby Mardin province, where the bulk of their sales took place. Now they are unable to purchase cereals from farmers.

“It is virtually impossible to do business in a market where uncertainty prevails,’’ said broker Kadri Barış.

“Our profit margin doesn’t exceed two to three percent. We can no longer send goods to factories. The reason for this is financial security. Factories cannot provide us with assurances, or post-dated cheques. Back in the day, we would send them whatever they wanted with a single phone call,’’ Barış said.

“There is no profit to begin with,” said another local broker, Müzbah Dal. “The regions we are doing business with are facing all kinds of problems, there is no cash flow and too many factories are shutting down. Everyone is working on credit and soaring interest rates have caused them to throw in the towel.”

Some 27 mills in the southeastern province of Gaziantep have been shut down recently, Barış said, meaning brokers could no longer risk taking anyone’s word that a payment would be made. “Each passing year makes us long for the previous one,” he said.

Last year’s drought has also hurt crop yields and left farmers in debt. “As producers, we begin each year paying last year’s debt with the money we make this year,” said farmer İbrahim Adıgüzel.

Livestock farmers also complain they cannot afford the higher prices of feed and may be forced to sell their animals.

Paying for goods in instalments was always an option in the past, but the lack of trust and confidence in the market means farmers are now obliged to buy feed, fertiliser, diesel and seeds with cash upfront.

“I have 15 cattle and I bought fodder for 15,000 lira ($2,875) and sold four calves for 7,000 lira ($1341),” said livestock farmer Nusret Gören. “If things carry on this way, we will all be forced to give up as our income does not meet our expenditure.’’