Government measures to help farmers and food-related business operators welcome, says FAO representative in Turkey
As it grapples with coronavirus, Turkey is not expected to face any major problems in the short- or mid-term in its food supply or food security, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.
“We are welcoming the measures taken by the government to help farmers and food-related business operators by postponing tax payments, advancing agricultural support payments, [and] providing interest-free loans for investment and operation which are provided for small farmers and processors,” Viorel Gutu told Anadolu Agency, hailing state campaigns to cushion the pandemic’s economic impact.
Gutu added that he also backs the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry’s “Evde Hayat, Sofrada Balik – Life at Home, Fish on the Plate” promotional campaign.
The campaign, promoting the retail sale of fish at wholesale prices, aims to boost household consumption of fish, which would be a welcome development both from a nutritional prospective and for supporting producers.
He also praised other government steps to secure the agricultural production process and food supply such as the project of allocating idle agricultural lands under public domain to farmers to grow certain types of products, such as cereals and oil seeds.
“The COVID-19 outbreak will pass sooner or later, and there is a need to ensure that agricultural and food production is continued,” he stressed.
Touching on Turkey’s general steps to stem the pandemic, Gutu said the country has been very deliberate in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic since day one.
“It seems that the country’s healthcare system has been quite successful in its response to increasing needs, and the Ministry of Health has been informing and updating the public on a daily basis,” he underlined.
Since the outbreak began, Turkey’s health minister has been holding daily briefings and issuing updated statistics through Twitter, in addition to periodic government advisories and news on safety guidelines and lockdowns.
Gutu stressed that the time spent in meetings – now held virtually – rose considerably, which also paved the way to communicate more with colleagues during lockdowns through much of the country.
“Sometimes, even my little son is participating in these meetings, hiding behind me,” Gutu said.
He added that the lockdown also gave him more time to improve his Turkish.
Stating that this period gave him more of a chance to be with his family, Gutu said: “We’re helping each other with cooking and cleaning.
“In this sense, our kids have chosen their own responsibilities and we’re very happy about it.”
Gutu explained that his shopping habits have seen little change, except for now he leaves the children at home.
Asked what he does personally to prevent any person-to-person spread of the infection – which often produces no symptoms – he said: “Obviously, using masks, gloves and sanitizers, when going out shopping. But, also, consuming healthy food and exercising every day.”
Also speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mahmut Duruk, who sits on the board of Turkey’s Federation of Food and Drink Industry Associations (TGDF), downplayed any risk of shortages, saying Turkey has enough food and beverage stockpiled to last it at least six months.
“Production and distribution activities in food and beverage continue at full speed on weekdays,” Duruk reassuringly stressed.