Turkey Syria Earthquake Effect On The Food Industry

This blog post will be about the food industry outlook for Turkey in 2023. The defining event will be the Turkey-Syria Earthquake. With few people on the ground reporting and the crisis changing daily, I will do my best to make this a comprehensive look at the effects.

My own story is that I was in Turkey four days before the earthquake hit. I was there because I sell nuts and dried fruit online. Many of them come from the farmers of Turkey. There is no bright side or silver lining. The earthquake is terrible. The effects will take generations to recover from.

A History Of Turkey And Syria Earthquakes

People in Turkey and Syria had their lives uprooted by several deadly earthquakes starting in the early hours of February 6, 2023. They are now looking at a food crisis as agricultural systems took a massive hit, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said. Two earthquakes hit the region nine hours apart. Then, around one hundred smaller earthquakes struck. On Monday, February 27th, another large-magnitude quake hit Syria and Turkey again.

The Earthquake has affected ten provinces in Turkey and four provinces in Syria. The United Nations agency has scaled its operation in the two countries to monitor the damage to food production and the value chains that manufacture finished products that could be used for relief.

As of March 8th, 2023, the death total is 46,957. The expectation is that these estimates will rise to more than 41,156 in Turkey and 5,801 in Syria. Injuring several thousand more and damaging tens of thousands of houses.

Taking A Look At Where The Earthquake Hit

Map Of The Turkey Syria Earthquake 2023

Above Is A Map Of The Turkey-Syria Earthquake 2023

The areas in the earthquake impact zone’s center are Turkey’s most fertile land. The cities affected most are Kahramanmaras, Elazig, and Malatya. The areas essential to producing apricots and hazelnuts are Gaziantep, Adana, and Sanhurfa. These areas were all in the zone of the most devastation. These areas are some of the most productive farming areas in the world. The devastation from the earthquake effects on food production is causing shortages and logistical challenges when the demand is highest.

A few areas are essential apricot and hazelnut-producing centers in Turkey that were not at the center of the earthquake’s impact. Erzincan, Aras Valley (Igdir—Kagizman), Icel (Mut), Sivas, Kayseri, Nigde, Hatay, and Nevsehir provinces are those areas. The collection of devastation in these areas brings significant earthquake effects on the food industry. Specifically, their destruction has not received as much publicity as the other areas needing emergency assistance.

Facts About The Apricot, Hazelnut, Date, And Pistachio Production In Turkey

The history of numbers reported from farms and Mersin Port tells a story. Turkey and Syria’s food exporting is older than records. Significantly, we have numbers from the last three years of trade and commerce. Here are the top four crops and the data we have tracked.

Three Facts About The Turkish Hazelnut Exports:

  • Turkey exports 2,800 shipments to America each year from 342 Turkish suppliers.
  • The World imports most of its Hazelnut from Turkey. It is estimated that 70 to 80% of all wholesale hazelnuts come from Turkey.
  • The top 3 importers of Turkish Hazelnuts are the United States, with 1,190 shipments per year. Followed in second place by half as much going to India with 641 hazelnut shipments and Peru at the 3rd spot with 184 shipments.
Primary Apricot Production Region Of Turkey, Earthquake effects on food production apricots.

Three Facts About The Turkish Apricot Exports:

  • Dried apricot export shipments from Turkey were 15,550 shipments in 2022 from 191 suppliers.
  • Turkey exports most of its wholesale dried apricots to the United States.
  • Turkey produces 15% of the apricots and 70% of the dried apricot supply. More than half of that goes to America.

Two Facts About The Turkish Date Exports:

  • Turkey is the fourth largest supplier of dates.
  • The wholesale Medjool dates are the dominant variety of dates that sell worldwide. 2,500 kinds of dates are sold, but the Medjool is the most popular and is grown mostly in Turkey.

Two Facts About The Turkish Pistachio Exports:

  • Turkey is the third largest supplier of pistachios. After Iran and the United States.
  • 56 provinces in Turkey produce wholesale pistachios. This increased their output, beating China last year to become the third biggest pistachio supplier in the world.

Mersin Port Is The Center For Exporting Food

In 2022, Turkey exported 126,900 food shipments of food. They were mainly from the Mersin port. Significantly, any of the earthquake effects on food production will surely mean a dip from 2022 to 2023. Other farms worldwide will try to fill some of the gaps. Obviously, that will be a great challenge.

On January 24th, the earthquake that struck was located just 50km (31 miles) away from Mersin City. Although the seismic shock was not severe enough to cause severe destruction in residential areas, it caused massive damage to the port. The Mersin port is the second-largest port in Turkey. It is the second largest food port in the world, behind the Newark, New Jersey port in America. That is, finished foods and ingredients.

Mersin port after earthquake, Earthquake effects on food production.
Mersin Port after the earthquake.

The destruction of the port included the destruction of some of the lifting equipment. In fact, there is extensive damage to the warehouses and offices. Given that, the destruction of several ships that were docked at the time will take longer to work through. Although none were sunk, several had so much damage that they could not travel, leading to further economic losses. The entire infrastructure of the port has been significantly damaged, with many of its busiest facilities still not in use.

Effects On Workers At The Mersin Port

The port authorities have been working hard to repair the damage and restore the port. Even when the port restoration is underway, the workers live and have families in decimated areas of Western Turkey. Additionally, operators of heavy equipment and trucks live away from the port and closer to the center of the devastation.

They have repaired some of the equipment and warehouses already. The destroyed ships must be replaced. To emphasize, even if the port recovers to be fully operational in 2023, personnel will be a huge issue. All the trucks bringing food exports to the port could be destroyed or working on the relief effort. Coupled with the workers with skills in heavy machinery are working to save those still under concrete and rubble at the center of the affected area.

Economic Impact of Earthquake on Mersin Port in Turkey

The impact of the earthquake effects on food production at the Mersin Port is just one component of the broader devastation experienced in Mersin and other affected areas like Northern Syria. Nevertheless, it is impossible to measure so soon after the tragedy. Clearly, these results will include the loss of jobs. Many people face displacement from their homes and live in temporary shelters. The damage is so significant that there is no expectation of an estimate on operationalizing the port to give workers access to start rebuilding.

Map Of Mersin Port In Turkey, Earthquake effects on food production.

The government of Turkey has taken steps to provide relief to those affected by the Turkey-Syria earthquake. Now, financial aid has also been provided to help with the rebuilding process. The government has set up a task force to coordinate the relief efforts. Additionally, the government has assisted businesses affected by the earthquake by providing loans and grants to help them recover.

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