Lowest rainfall in decades threatens Turkey’s grain production

Lowest rainfall in decades threatens Turkey’s grain production
Wheat harvesting in Sivas, central Turkey. / Maurice Flesier, cc-by-sa 4.0
By bne IntelIiNews April 11, 2023

Severe drought will pose a bigger threat than earthquake impacts to Turkey’s grain production in marketing year 2023-24.

The dire situation is outlined in a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Turkey’s cumulative rainfall totals from last October to February dropped to their lowest levels in decades at around 30% below the historical average for the period, the report noted.

“The lack of rain is particularly concerning for both winter wheat and winter barley, most of which are unirrigated,” the USDA said. “In addition, the shortfall in precipitation has also contributed to lower water levels in reservoirs and dams in different parts of the country, which may limit the amount of water available for irrigation later in the year for rice and corn.”

The two massive earthquakes that hit southern Turkey and Syria, killing towards 60,000 people according to latest estimates, caused more than $100bn in damage across 11 Turkish provinces—but the USDA reiterated that the drought, rather than earthquake consequences, was set to take the larger toll on Turkey’s grain harvest.

However, while, because of the dry conditions, Turkey’s wheat output was forecast to remain unchanged at 17.25mn tonnes, despite the difficulties, the country’s corn production was expected to hit a record 7.7mn tonnes, the USDA added.

It also said that the wheat-harvested area was projected to increase by 350,000 hectares in 2023-24, a prediction based on the expectation that relatively stronger domestic wheat prices would motivate farmers to plant more wheat instead of cotton and sunflower

The USDA forecast that Turkish wheat imports would be unchanged from 2022-23 at 10mn tonnes, but also observed that they could move higher if drought persists and production declines.

Around 70% of the wheat Turkey imports is re-exported as flour and pasta. Turkey is the world’s number one flour exporter.

Most of the earthquake damage occurred in four provinces that produce a relatively small amount of grain, the USDA pointed out. Those provinces account for 5% of Turkey’s wheat production, 5% of corn and 4% of barley, it added.

According to industry sources cited by World-Grain.com, 10 small- and medium-sized flour mills in Turkey were damaged in the earthquake disaster, but it was not anticipated that the damage would impact the country’s overall flour production.

“In other words, mills unaffected by the earthquakes can easily pick up the slack for those damaged facilities,” the USDA said.