According to data released by the Agricultural Association of Turkey, 25 percent of the 1.2 million tons of meat consumed in Turkey annually is smuggled meat. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is believed to control over 70 percent of the meat and animal smuggling business.
According to studies conducted jointly by the Agricultural Association of Turkey and the Turkish Union of Dairy, Meat, and Food Producers (SETBIR), an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 tons of meat consumed in Turkey comes from animals that have been smuggled into the country. The revenue loss Turkey incurs from animal and meat smuggling reaches up to $3 billion annually. But the Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) contends the cost is much higher, stating that the figure is approaching $5 billion. Live animals are smuggled into Turkey from Iraq, Syria and Iran by the PKK.
The supply gap in the meat industry is expected to reach 170,000 tons by 2015 in Turkey, as the population increases but meat production remains relatively constant.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Gendarmerie General Command and the Customs Undersecretariat launched a joint effort in 2005 to counter animal and meat smuggling. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has also set up a working group on animal smuggling, but despite all efforts the crime has not been prevented and the rate of smuggling continues to increase.
It is believed that the PKK has full control over animal smuggling across the Iranian and Iraqi borders in eastern and southeastern Turkey. According to data released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the Agricultural Association of Turkey and the Turkish Veterinary Medical Association, around 450,000 tons of smuggled meat reaches Turkey each year, creating an estimated loss of more than $3 billion.
PKK holds monopoly on animal smuggling
The biggest incentive for smuggling meat into Turkey is the access to cheap meat in Iran, Syria and Iraq, where the price of meat is just $2 per kilogram. The number of animals smuggled from Iran, Syria and in recent years Iraq reaches 20,000 on average each year.
A significant amount of chopped meat is brought into Turkey through Mediterranean ports, especially in Mersin.
The PKK has almost full control over animal smuggling, which is a major source of income for the outlawed organization. The PKK controls around 70 percent of the $3 billion meat smuggling market. Hakkari's Şemdinli, Yüksekova and Başkale districts are the places where most smuggled meat is traded.
Animals from Iran are brought illegally to Turkey from Iğdır. Animals from India, Afghanistan and Pakistan are also smuggled into Turkey from Iğdır.
The importation of live animals and meat is not allowed in Turkey. But in an effort to prevent animal smuggling, the Meat Producers Association (ETBİR) has requested that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs allow the importation of dairy cattle. ETBİR believes allowing the importation of high-milk-yielding and meat-providing animals will not only increase meat and dairy production in Turkey but also decrease costs over time. Currently, the ministry has no plans to remove the restriction on importing live animals and meat.
Livestock on decline in Turkey
In 1940 there were 44 million hectares of grass and pasture used for raising cattle as livestock. Since 2000, this area has dropped to 12 million hectares, which became the leading factor hindering animal husbandry. There was a sharp decline in livestock in Turkey in 2006. Turkey had 13 million heads of cattle between 1983 and 2005, but this figure dropped to 10.6 million by 2007. In 2008 the number of cattle started to increase, reaching 11.1 million, but while cattle numbers are on the rise, the number of goat and sheep continues to decline. In 2006 there were more than 40 million sheep, around 25.5 million in 2007 and just 23.3 million in 2008.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has been providing subsidies to the animal husbandry sector since 2001 as part of efforts to prevent a rapid decline in the number of livestock animals. Although the ministry has offered $1.5 billion in assistance to the sector in the last five years, the decline in the number of livestock continues.
Turkey has expensive meat
Meat producers sell one kilogram of meat for around TL 8 in Turkey. After slaughterhouses add operations costs and taxes to the price, consumers buy meat for TL 14 per kilo on average. The average price of meat around the world is around $2 or $3 per kilo. Just as the case with gas, Turkey has the most expensive meat in the world.
SETBIR advocates a reduction in the rate of value-added tax on meat to prevent animal smuggling. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs is attempting to raise different breeds of cattle. Conducting studies on Turkish cattle breeds, the ministry is seeking to raise breeds that can easily adapt to Turkey's geography and provide higher yields of milk and meat. The main reason for this is that while in developed countries one cow provides more than 500 kilograms of meat, in Turkey one cow provides only around 300 kilograms.