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Organic market in Bodrum’s Konacık expands to second spot 29 mars 2010

Posted by Acturca in Economy / Economie, Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Plus News Pakistan

29 March 2010

Growing support for fresh organic food and other organic products will allow the Konacık tent market to expand to a full-time shop in Bitez this summer. Though tourism and development in the area compete for land and labor with organic food production, they may also bring in more educated consumers and boost demand for organic food

A handwritten sign reading “hormonsuz” (without hormones) sits on every second pile of tomatoes and vegetables in Bodrum’s weekly markets, offering many consumers hope of a healthier, more natural option. Cynics, however, dismiss such labeling as an unverifiable marketing ploy on the part of the stall holder.

For more than a year, though, people concerned about the state of their food have been able to shop at the tent set up by the nearby Konacık Municipality for a weekly market of organic vegetables, fruit and other products brought in from all corners of Turkey.

A growing number of producers in the country are able to comply with the stringent certification process necessary to use the “organic” designation, a system of which remarkably few people are yet aware.

Stalls in the tent are piled high with greens, parsley, leeks, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and celeriac from Bursa. The onions and potatoes are from Konya, while tomatoes and cucumber come from Mersin, bananas from Anamur, apples from Eğridir and oranges from Köyceğiz. Sales are quick as locals and other regulars snap up the vegetables and fruit by lunchtime.

Other shoppers come in to buy bulk quantities of dried herbs, legumes and grains, which are packaged in very modern and useful self-sealing vacuum packs adorned with the Bodrum Organik label.

So who is behind the enormous effort required to start and sustain the market, and build the organic label?

Bihter and Cem Mutlu are the driving forces. They became convinced of the necessity of clean healthy food after their move from the city to Bodrum. Bihter, a hotel-management graduate of Bosphorus University, and Cem, who studied textile engineering at Marmara University, moved to Bodrum after having worked around Turkey in their respective careers.

Even in the healthier environment of Bodrum, they explain on their Web site, they still noticed that the vegetables and fruit had become tasteless, lacking the earthy smell of good food, and that they and their friends did not have the time and resources to find alternatives. They also worried about the long-term effects of unknown pesticides and residues on the food, and therefore on their health.

They started to search for organic sources of food; realizing that others shared their quest, they decided to implement the concept of “Bodrum Organic,” by forming an association called the Bodrum Tarım ve Yaşamı Destekleme Derneği (Bodrum Support for Agriculture and Life Association) with the aim of bringing to the city’s consumers every kind of organic product that can be grown in Turkey.

It was, and remains, an ambitious task, but in their first few months, they received a lot of support from universities in İzmir and Istanbul, and growers from as far as Afyon and Antalya. The increase in petrol prices eventually kept the universities and actual growers from coming, but their food is still delivered overnight for sale at the Wednesday organic market.

“We don’t let everyone sell their products here,” Bihter said while standing in the tent with its organic food products heaped on the tables, and going on to explain that they are very selective in choosing their producers, demanding a strict adherence to organic certification so the market can be a trusted and completely reliable source of organic products. Referring to a woman who brings in home-baked börek (savory pastries) to sell, she said, “Every week, this lady brings us the receipts and sources of the materials that she has used.”

Bihter freely admits that the strict standards means that prices are higher than at the usual local markets; they also virtually rule out that other category of fresh food preferred by caring eco-consumers – “local food” transported less than 100 miles, which has a low-carbon impact and supports local producers.

“There are no [local organic producers] on the Bodrum Peninsula,” Bihter said, shaking her head regretfully.

Undeterred, Bihter and Cem are working on a project to secure their own local supply of organic vegetables by actually producing them themselves. With the support of the Turgutreis Municipality, they have secured the use of 30,000 square meters of untouched land that was never chemically fertilized or sprayed. This means they can start growing certified organic vegetables from the first crop rotation. They are currently seeking support or sponsorship to have a 100-meter-deep artesian well dug before starting work. They say they have volunteers willing and ready to help with the planting, so keen are consumers to guarantee a supply of organic food.

The Bodrum Chamber of Commerce, or BODTO, has been running a project for sustaining production of mandarins and other citrus fruit on the peninsula, but there is no additional support yet for organic citrus production. To establish an organic orchard, a field requires three to five years before it can be declared clean of previous fertilizers and sprays, allowing the crop to pass certification, and there must be willing and cooperative neighbors who will either create an organic buffer zone, or be part of the effort.

The Bitez Municipality only recently held a seminar for growers on organic citrus production, so there may yet be support for local organic producers. Producers in the district, however, are still hampered by lower water tables, the pressure to sell fertile agricultural land for housing development, the depletion of farming expertise and the loss of committed local farmers to tourism employment or retirement age.

But while tourism and development compete for land and labor with organic food production, they may also bring in more educated consumers and boost demand for organic food.

Incoming passengers sometimes ask for organic food, a representative of a local yacht charter company said.

“When they ask for it, we fill their request, whether it be from the big supermarket ‘organic corners’ or from the local Friday market,” Dina Street said. “We make sure we buy from the real farmers – the little old lady who makes her own sauce or the old man who has brought his leeks in from his garden. We usually buy all the eggs, cheese and vegetables from the market.”

Street said she was aware of the existence of the organic market, but hadn’t previously known where it was.

“Education is the main role for this organic market,” says Sevil, a stallholder in the tent. “We are developing a consciousness among consumers about the availability and range of products possible.”

Sevil has three tables full of products she brings down from suppliers in Istanbul, including personal-care and cleaning products such as Ekodeo – a Turkish-made organic-crystal aluminum-free deodorant – and natural hygienic pads, as well as the Turkish-made Genay brand of cleaning products and others imported from Germany. She also offers organic decaf coffee, chocolate biscuits and organic cotton clothes for babies and children.

Though Turkey’s share of the world organic cotton market is around 40 percent, the manufactured clothes are rarely seen inside the country.

New European Union projects have identified İzmir as a good source of organic foods, but the area mainly exports to EU countries that are hungry for organic supplies. Another EU-funded project supported by the Spanish has just started in Milas area to build up supplies of organic olive oil and other food products. When they are available, the marketing will already be in place in the Bodrum area, thanks to the efforts of Bihter, Cem and their volunteers.

As of May, organic products will be on sale six days a week; the Wednesday fresh market will continue in the Konacik tent, and for the rest of the week, the goods will be available at the Bodrum Organik shop at the Bitez beachside. Bihter and Cem say many of their organic-food buyers live in the green orchards and small lanes of Bitez and other semi-rural areas.

The new shop is located at Şah Cad. No.25/B, beside the Hotel Cavuş entrance. Call 0546 667 45 08/09 for details. The weekly Wednesday fresh and organic food and supplies market is held in the large tent on the main peninsula road near the Konacık Municipality Building.

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