What was the market situation?
With a total acreage of 460,000 hectares, grapes are one of the most important fruits grown in Turkey, which ranks fifth in worldwide grape production but is the most important producer of seedless raisins. Grapes are mainly grown in the Aegean and Marmara Regions of Western Turkey.
Domestic consumption is primarily table grapes and a small amount of raisins, but the main focus of Turkish grape production is on export markets, with 75 – 80 % of the grape production exported as raisins and 4 – 5 % as table grapes. This underlines the importance of exports to Turkish grape producers.
Özgür Tarim A.Ş., Turkey’s No. 1 raisin exporter, is based near Manisa in the Aegean Region and has 400 contracted grape growers. Özgür Tarim provides the farmers with technical advice and input, such as fertilizer, and then purchases their raisin harvest at the end of the season. Bayer has worked closely with Özgür Tarim from 2015 onwards and launched this Food Chain Partnership at the beginning of the 2017 grape season. Since then, Bayer’s field team has been providing the Özgür Tarim field team and grape growers with ongoing support and advice. Özgür Tarim and Bayer are working together to improve raisin production according to the quality standards required to meet international requirements on 2,000 hectares of vineyards.
From Left to Right:<br> Dr. Mehmet Kaya, Food Chain Manager, <br>Bayer Turkey<br>Şems Özgür, Operations Director <br>and Board Member, Özgür Tarim A.Ş.
What were the challenges?
The main aim of this Food Chain Partnership is to sustainably produce high-quality grapes and meet the export markets’ high standards for food safety and, specifically, residue levels. In this respect, safeguarding traceability through compliance with maximum residue limits (MRLs) was a key consideration. To this end, residue analyses had to be carried out and confirmed by laboratory findings. The climate in the Aegean Region, and particularly around Manisa, is excellent for growing grapes but also offers favorable conditions for a wide range of pests and diseases, e.g. downy and powdery mildew, gray mold, thrips, grape berry moths, and mealybugs. Controlling these pests and diseases while ensuring compliance with international standards and taking the environment and off-target organisms into consideration was another huge challenge.