Nutfruit Magazine

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25 March, 2020 Country Product Spotlight

Organic Raisin Production in Turkey

Organic Raisin Production in Turkey

Organic agricultural activities started in Turkey in the mid-1980s in response to a growing demand in Europe. In 2018, 1.65% of the total cultivated land certified as organic was devoted to seedless dried grapes. The global organic food market is increasing and estimated to be around $100 billion in 2018.

By  Prof. Dr. Uygun Aksoy


Turkey is traditionally known as an important producer and trader of dried fruit. Thus, when consumers first demanded organically produced dried grapes, European importers made agreements with the Turkish processors/exporters. During the 1984-85 season, raisins exported to Germany became the first organic good to be exported from Turkey.
In the European Union, the common legislative framework was established in 1991 (EEC 2092/91[1]). The first Turkish regulation setting up the production rules for organic plant production and certification system was adopted in 1994 (Regulation No 22145, 18.12.1994). Ten years later, in 2004, legislation 5262 “Organic Agriculture Law” was accepted (03.12.2004). Currently, the implementing regulation is being revised/amended to align with the EU regulation. The scope and the rules for production, processing and labeling are similar to the EU legislation.
In Turkey, the competent authority is the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MoAF) and they authorize certification bodies to carry out third party certification for organic if accredited according to ISO 17065. As grapes are perennial crops, the transition period is three years. Since 2009, organic farmers have received a subsidy after completing the first year of the transition period as long as production is certified according to Turkish legislation. However, the amounts paid are not incentivizing small farmers to convert to organic. The main motive behind conversion is getting guaranteed access to the market through contracted farming. MoAF collects national data on organic agri-food production, imports and exports based on operators certified for Turkish legislation. There is no bilateral agreement yet for equivalency of the Turkish legislation to any organic standard, therefore, as in all other countries, every organic product destined for export must fulfill the rules of the importing market. Thus, organic operators have to be certified according to various official standards such as the EU, the National Organic Program of the USA or the Japanese Agricultural Standards and/or private standards. Inspection and certification are done by bodies that are authorized by the competent authority according to the rules shown in the standard.

Current State

The official on-line data collection system gathers data on organic production certified according to the Turkish regulation through the authorized certification bodies and is made public annually. The actual numbers for the export market are higher due to additional farmers certified as organic only according to the EU or National Organic Program of the USA. The data presented are derived from the official data set and shows the organic figures for the three major seedless grape producing provinces, Manisa, İzmir and Denizli, where seedless grapes are sun-dried commercially. Grape production in other provinces are either for fresh consumption or for processing of wine, grape juice or concentrate. The production figures are reported as fresh grapes and for dried grapes, 4:1 drying ratio is used in calculations. There is no export of organic seedless grapes as fresh; only small amounts are sold in domestic markets, which are neglected in calculations.
The number of organic dried grape farms, including those in transition, increased from 1791 in 2014 to 2740 in 2018. There was a steep increase in transition to organic seedless dried grapes in 2016, however, some farmers dropped back the following two years.

Figure 1 reflects the changes in production amounts (metric tons) of seedless dried grapes between 2003 and 2018. The major increases are seen during the last few years. There was a steep increase in transition to organic in 2017 but some farmers dropped back.
The number of organic farms certified as in transition declined in 2018 reducing the total farm number (Figure 2). The total seedless grape production area under certified organic management showed a steady increase (Figure 3). The area in transition showed a slight decrease between 2016 and 2018.
According to the 2018 data, the total cultivated land certified as organic (including in transition and excluding area for wild harvest) in Turkey is 533,793 ha and seedless dried grape area comprise 1.62% of organic certified land and 3.44% of organic farms. Farm sizes are rather small.

The average size of an organic dried grape farm is 3.16 ha, and the average yield per hectare is 17.84 MT of fresh grapes (equivalent to 4.46 MT of dried grapes per ha). Seedless grape vineyards for sun-drying are located solely in the western part of Turkey. Manisa and İzmir are the main producing provinces. Vineyards producing dried seedless grapes cover 6.5% of the organic certified land in this region creating an important socio-economic output.

Seedless grapes are harvested and dried at the farm and then brought to the processing units that are also certified by authorized certification bodies. All the methods and inputs used (e.g., washing, pest control, cleaning of the facility) have to comply with the reference organic standard. The labeling and the information on the label provide traceability and build consumer trust.   

Future Prospects      

The global organic food market is increasing and estimated to be around 100 billion US dollars in 2018. In terms of market size, the first two markets are North America (USA and Canada) and Europe, dominating the world market with a share of 90% and creating flows from developing countries. New emerging markets are present in far-eastern Asia, such as China, Japan, Korea, and India, as well as Gulf countries or Latin America, such as Brazil. Organic consumers prefer healthy snacks like dried fruits rather than highly processed food. Therefore, the demand seems to continue as the organic market size enlarges.

About the Author

Prof. Dr. Uygun Aksoy is a full professor at Ege University Faculty of Agriculture, Izmir, Turkey, until her retirement in 2016 and lecturer at the Master’s Program on Mediterranean Organic Agriculture at CIHEAM Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari between 2000 and 2014. She has been a board member of the International Society for Horticultural Science (1998-2006); one of the founders and chairpersons of the Turkish Society for Horticulture and Association of Organic Agriculture Organization. She is currently working as a consultant on international projects and is the chairperson for the Association of Organic Agriculture in Turkey.

[1] Council Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 of 24 June 1991 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs.
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