Agriculture is still the occupation of the majority of Turkish people, despite the share of industry and services are raising constantly. Turkey is one of the few self-sufficient countries in the world in terms of food. Turkey's fertile soil, adeguate climate, and abundant rainfall permit growing almost any kinds of crops. The farming is conducted in all of the regions in Turkey, but it's less practiced in the mountainous eastern regions where the main activity is based on animal husbandry which has a share of one-fourth of the gross value of the total agricultural production.
In terms of agricultural lands, Turkey is also one of the largest countries in the world. About 35.5% of the country are arable lands and 15% consists of forests. The cultivated land is around 26.5 million hectares as per 2004. Around 18.4% of the cultivated land is irrigated. Vegetable products account for 76% of total agricultural production, then animal husbandary, meanwhile forestry and fishing contribute a minimal amount. Fruits and field crops make up the most of vegetable products, wheat being the leading crop. As per the figures of 2003, Turkey is the world’s biggest producer of hazelnuts, figs, apricots and raisins, the 4th biggest producer of fresh vegetables and grapes, the 6th biggest producer of tobacco, the 8th biggest producer of wheat, and the 10th biggest producer of cotton. Tea is also large produced and exported. These numbers are more or less the same for 2007.
The rapid industrialization of Turkey after 1930's and government policies caused agriculture's share to decline in overall income. The share of the agricultural sector in the GNP was almost 50% in 1950, 25% in 1980, 15.3% in 1990, and 11% in 2005. This caused the fall of economic standards of the farmers and contributed to emigration from rural to urban areas. But in 1990's, the State encouraged the farmers to adopt modern techniques with the mechanization and has provided infrastructural conveniences for irrigation and cultivation contributing to the development of the agricultural sector. The most important of these projects is the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP).
Despite agriculture's relative decline in the last 30 years, the sector still plays an important role in foreign trade. Turkey exports many agricultural products such as cereals, pulses, industrial crops, sugar, nuts, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and livestock products. The main export markets are the European Union, the United States, and the Middle East. Around 32% of total employment in Turkey is in agriculture sector, and total exports of agricultural products passes 8 billion USD (as of 2005).
The agricultural sector is currently undergoing a restructuring process in order to achieve harmonization with the EU regulations. Turkish farmers enrolled in the Farmer Registry System receive Direct Income Supports from the government, a premium system is practiced, and they receive chemical fertilizer support and diesel fuel support, as well as training for the latest agricultural techniques. The Agricultural Bank of Turkey (Ziraat Bankasi) provides most loans to farmers and cooperatives, much of the World Bank's lending for agricultural projects in Turkey is channeled through this bank.
Animal husbandry is an important part of Turkey's agricultural sector and economy. The share of animal husbandry in the total agricultural output is around 25%. The number of cattle totals approximately 10 million and sheep around 25 million, they are kept mainly on the grazing lands of Anatolia. Wool is a significant export of Turkey, which is also used internally for making world-famous Turkish carpets.
Poultry production expanded rapidly after 1980's, Turkey has reached the level of developed nations in this sector: it's the world's 20th biggest poultry meat producer with 950,000 tons of poultry meat (as of 2005). Meanwhile, annual chick production in the country reaches 640 million, including 40 million for egg production.
Today, animal husbandry receives state support; artificial insemination, breeding, apiculture, fish farming, fodder and milk production are mainly supported.
Despite Turkey's long coastline and large freshwater bodies, fishing is an underdeveloped industry compared to other sectors. The annual catch is a little bit over 400,000 tons for the sea fish and around 50,000 from fresh water. The Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, The Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean constitute the main fishing grounds. After 1990's, the fish farms were supported by the state and their numbers have grown. Today, Frogs' legs, snails, shrimp, and crayfish are some of the sea products exported. In 2007, it's estimated that the sea products export will be around 131 million USD, around 90% of this to the European Union.
As for the fish consumption, Turkey is also behind the world average: Turkish people eat 8 kilograms (17,6 pounds) of fish per capita per year, meanwhile the world average is around 16 kilograms and the EU average is around 22 kilograms per person.
Source: partly from the Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM)