Turkish agriculture delights

It’s at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, has a population of 85 million and has recently ‘rebranded’ itself as Türkiye. It’s also the world’s fourth-biggest tractor market. Powernews takes a closer look – from an agricultural perspective – at this fascinating country.

As far as farming is concerned, Türkiye is blessed. Fertile lands are everywhere, from the rich arable lands of Thrace, in the north-west, to the rolling south-western hills of Aydin, packed with figs and olives and chestnuts, and the valuable grazing lands of central Anatolia.

“Türkiye is one of the world’s few self-sufficient countries in terms of food,” says İsmail Uğural, a Turkish agricultural journalist and editor of Turkish AgriNews, “and that’s thanks to our fertile soils, a variety of climates conducive to a wide range of crops, and good availability of water whether from rainfall or irrigation.

“Agriculture is hugely important to our economy. It accounts for about 20 percent of the country’s workforce, while the industry itself contributes nearly seven percent to national GDP.”

İsmail says the country’s productivity is boosted by the fragmented nature of agricultural lands. Laws that prohibit the division of land into parcels of less than 2ha – an effort to maintain viable holdings – also make it easier to grow a wider range of higher value crops. 

“Here we grow cereals, pulses, and industrial crops like sugar beet. We’re the world’s biggest producer of hazelnuts, figs, apricots, cherries and raisins. Globally we rank number four for fresh vegetables and grapes, and in the top ten for cotton. Then there’s citrus fruit, top fruit, stone fruit, and pome fruit, plus salad crops, chestnuts, watermelons, tomatoes…the list goes on.

“And our most valuable product is now milk,” he points out, “more than 90 percent of which is cows’ milk. It’s only in the last 15 years that milk has overtaken wheat as the most valuable product, but it’s a vindication of the efforts made to modernise the industry. 

“It’s definitely a sign that Türkiye has entered a more modern phase,” he emphasises, pointing out how it’s been nine years since the country gained entry to the EU market for its dairy products.

It’s this combination of land-division laws, the country’s status as an EU candidate member, its diverse agricultural sector and, not least, the employment in agriculture of one in five of the population, that has made Türkiye such a globally significant tractor market.

“Many farmers have only a small area of land,” says Ömer Kuloğlu, founder of the Traktormetre YouTube channel. “But they still want to do their jobs when the weather’s right, they don’t want to have to wait to borrow or hire a tractor.

“That’s made them focus on getting their own tractor. So it’s perhaps no surprise to discover that there are more than two million tractors in Turkey. Last year saw tractor sales of 63,000, slightly below 2016’s record 70,000. The figure for 2022 is expected to be nearer to the long-term average, around 55,000.”

Originally trained as a mechanical engineer, since 2012 Ömer has been a TV programme producer and presenter, covering agricultural mechanisation and agtech. In March 2019, he founded Traktormetre, a YouTube channel that has attracted more than 73,000 subscribers by creating content that’s about one thing and one thing only: tractor reviews.

Perkins worker ficing engine

“We cover all the latest technologies in farming,” explains Ömer, “but given the numbers of Turkish farmers, and the small average farm size of just 6 ha, against the EU average of 13 ha, it’s perhaps no surprise that the average tractor is just 75 horsepower.

“This sector accounts for more than 50 percent of Turkish tractor sales. Farmers here are not looking for high-tech units. They have a very simple ‘wish list’. Typically, that means a strong engine, a good, simple transmission – 16F 16R, 24F 24R, for example – and a cab for comfort. Those are the priorities,” Ömer notes.

In 2001 there were only four tractor brands in Türkiye; today, over 30 different brands compete in a crowded tractor market, including many of the biggest, most well-known global names. But there’s a huge challenge facing Turkish farmers right now – indeed, the wider population too – and that’s the issue of currency. The Turkish lira lost more than 40 percent of its value against the US dollar in 2021, 30 percent in November alone, after the country’s central bank cut interest rates to boost economic growth and support exports.

“Of course, while these currency movements help exports, they also make imports more expensive,” explains Ömer. “That’s pushed up prices for some of the international brands, giving domestic tractors the advantage.

Ömer contrasts a domestically built 100 horsepower tractor with an imported model of the same power and specification. “A farmer will pay around 500,000TRY ($36,000; €32,000) for the Turkish brand, but the imported model will cost 800,000TRY ($58,000; €52,000).

“And think about the average price for a tonne of wheat. Right now, a farmer receives 5,000TRY ($360; €320). That’s a lot of wheat to sell before you can consider making a new investment; even more if you go for the imported brand.”

Engine tune up

One of Türkiye’s most well-known domestic brands is Erkunt, which also sells tractors overseas under the ArmaTrac badge. Set up only 19 years ago, it was the first tractor to be designed completely by a Turkish engineering team and now ranks as one of country’s top brands. 

Erkunt made an early decision to feature Perkins engines across many of its models, with the 1103 and 1104 variants – three and four-cylinder models respectively – some of the most common. With a maximum torque at 1400 rpm, these units are ideally suited to tractor use; while EU Stage II/III and U.S. EPA Tier 2/3 emission standards mean they provide cost-effective power solutions for lower-regulated territories.

The same engine has also found favour with Hattat and Basak. Hattat is the country’s second largest manufacturer and the largest domestic producer. Founded in 1973 as an automotive and construction machinery specialist, Hattat didn’t produce its first branded tractor until 2007. Today’s model range takes in everything from 50 to 113 horsepower – all powered by Perkins. And Basak’s newest model, the 2105S, again features the 1104.

“That these companies have settled on Perkins to power their domestically designed tractors is a reflection of our worldwide reputation, service provision and parts availability,” says Andy Curtis, global OEM sales director for Perkins.

“After all, Perkins is a brand that for the last 90 years has proven itself in the tractor sector time and time again, with some of our longest-serving models being those produced for the agricultural market. When customers choose Perkins, they’re also choosing to give their customers confidence in the quality and reliability of their own products.

“Whatever the market, wherever it is in the world, and especially for manufacturers exporting to multiple markets, Perkins understands not only the emission standards but also end-user behaviour and competitor trends. That allows us to find the right approach for each customer, as evidenced by our experiences in Turkey with these leading tractor manufacturers.”

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