Turkey's egg exports to Kuwait and Syria rose to a record level in 2019 after Iraq's egg import ban last year compelled Turkish exporters to seek new markets after losing their largest trading partner.
The country's total egg exports amounted to $215.82 million in 2019, a 38% decline compared with the previous year's figures, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) data.
The drop in exports was mainly caused by an import ban by Iraq, which, prior to the ban, accounted for over 70% of Turkey's egg exports.
In April, the Iraqi government gradually implemented an import ban on certain products from regional countries, including Turkey. These included eggs, poultry, meat, beverages, ice cream, table salt, noodle varieties and pasta.
The 2019 data showed Iraq remained the largest export market with $96.32 million worth of eggs exported last year, but the market shrank by 66.2% from $285.43 million worth of exports in 2018.
Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan last month said Iraq's measures had affected $800 million worth of Turkish exports.
Meanwhile, Turkish exporters raced to find new markets for their products and recorded a 12,715% increase in egg imports to Syria from $320,161 to $41 million in 2019. Egg imports to Kuwait also rose by 2,000% to $31.64 million, up from over $1 million in 2018.
In October, exporters also sent the first shipment of eggs to the U.S., a market Turkish egg exporters have been eyeing for a long time.
İbrahim Afyon, chairman of the Turkish Egg Producers Association (YUM-BİR), said Saturday Turkey's egg exports to Iraq have stopped completely after the implementation of the ban in May, and some of the producers were forced to sell eggs at their cost price.
The egg ban turned into a major crisis in May, with Turkish egg exporters having to deal with the unwarranted situation of having the doors close to their largest market, which accounted for over 70% of their exports.
Egg exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $306.45 million in 2018, according to YUM-BİR data, or 71% of Turkey's total egg exports at $430 million.
TurkStat's figures show that Iraqi traders are circumventing the ban by buying Turkish eggs through Syria and Kuwait, Afyon told Anadolu Agency (AA). He added that the exporters are now working toward entering the African market.
Turkey's business community blamed the Iraqi decision, touted by Baghdad as an effort to boost domestic production, on political factors. Turkish exporters say that Iraq is currently not in a position to meet local demands for most of the aforementioned products.
Besides Turkish exporters, the move is said to have also caught Iraqi people on the wrong foot. Iraqi citizens are said to have faced hikes on one of their sine qua non-staple food products.
Several reports released after the ban suggested that the price of a locally produced carton of eggs (30 eggs) in Iraq has increased from 3,500 Iraqi dinars ($3) to 5,000 Iraqi dinars compared with some 3,000 Iraqi dinars before the decision.
Some reports also said the protest movement in Iraq was taken to social networks where campaigns called for a boycott of Iraqi eggs and for imports to start again.