Editorial: Turkey's produce trade with Russia in numbers
Russia bought around half of Turkey's vegetable exports and more than a third of its fruit shipments last year. With the market set to be closed on Jan. 1, all that volume will either need to find new markets or rot on trees. Using UN Comtrade data, we take a look at just how important Russia is to the Turkish produce industry and look at the historical outlets that may have to take an impending oversupply.
In fact, Russia's share of exports increased for seven of Turkey's top 10 fruit crops between January and July this year, reaching 263,900 metric tons (MT).
And that's excluding all the volume shipped between August and the recent polemic incident on the Syrian border.
Percentage-wise Russia was most important for Turkey in table grapes during the period receiving 77% of the total, up 14 percentage points on the same timeframe in 2014.
But in terms of volume, citrus was by far the leading category in fruit: 66,013MT in lemons (30%); 47,963MT in mandarins (43%); 33,980MT in oranges (20%); and 22,106MT in grapefruit (25%).
Other leading Turkish fruit exports to Russia included apricots (53%), apples (10%), peaches (52%), plums (16%) and cherries (28%).
The predicament is tougher still in vegetables. Over the same period, Turkey exported more tomatoes to Russia than all the leading fruit crops combined at a level of 288,398MT, representing 74% of all shipments for the crop.
Russia was also a key market for the country's onions and shallots with 37,964MT (49%) and cucumbers with 14,339MT (47%).
How concerned are you about Russia's ban on Turkish produce?
— Fresh Fruit Portal (@FruitPortal) December 1, 2015
So where will all the extra produce go?
What will transpire over the coming months is still uncertain, but by looking at Turkey's historic markets we can get an idea of its options.
Like many agricultural nations Turkey is chasing new trade and access agreements in countries as far away as Ecuador and China, but as was seen in the European Union in the wake of its Russian embargo the effects are often felt at home and in neighboring countries.
Using Turkey's fruit exports from last year as an example, this puts Iraq (23%), the EU (15%) and the Ukraine (9%) down as likely contenders. The situation could be similar in veggies with Iraq accounting for 15%, the EU 12%, Georgia 5.8% and the Ukraine 5.5%.
But circumstances vary from fruit to fruit, and in some crops will likely put significant pressure on a European Union market already strained from by its own Russian ban.
The EU is actually Turkey's leading market for grapefruit - it received 47% of the total or 83,635MT last year - while other key crops include cherries (67%; 33,266MT), lemons (18%; 75,003MT), apricots (18%; 4,929MT) and grapes (18%; 47,384MT).
In assessing the damage it is also worth considering production statistics to gauge how export-dependent Turkey is in each crop. The lower the percentage that goes overseas, the more likely it is that Turkey will be able to better absorb some of the loss domestically.
The most recent production figures we were able to obtain for this analysis are from 2013 UN Comtrade data, and they show that Turkey is extremely export-dependent in grapefruit (60%) lemons (56%), easy peelers (56%) and oranges (16%).
The most domestically-focused crops in the analysis included tomatoes, cucumbers and apples with just 4% exported, as well as peaches, apricots and grapes (5%).