Last week, Turkey hosted the G20 Agriculture Ministers Meeting in Istanbul where representatives from the world's leading economies discussed how to reduce food losses and waste around the world. The timely forum is only the latest brought together with Turkey in the G20 presidency. Today, an estimated 805 million people go hungry every year and another 600 million people suffer from obesity. At the same time, 1.3 billion tons of produced food is wasted per year due to a variety of reasons. Amid these troubling facts, the G20 believes there is an opportunity to feed those who do not have enough to eat even if only half the quantity of food wasted can be recovered through new reforms and international cooperation. Under the leadership of Turkey, the G20 agriculture ministers, including U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan and Agriculture Minister Mehmet Mehdi Eker, recently met and produced a joint communique with recommendations to, among other things, prioritize "prevention and recovery of safe and nutritious otherwise wasted food to feed people rather than repurposing it for other uses."
It is perhaps no coincidence that Turkey prompted the G20 to address food security and nutrition for the first time in the international organization's history at such a high-level. Over the past decade, Turkey has emerged as a major exporter of agricultural products making the country well-positioned to offer guidance on how to develop an efficient and open agricultural sector. In fact, this meeting came on the heels of reports that Turkey's agriculture revenue reached $61 billion in 2014, not only making it the leader among European countries, but also reaffirming its position as a role model for emerging economies.
As part of its rapid rise to become an agricultural powerhouse, Turkey has stood out for its commitment to reducing income inequality and improving food security through the support of sustainable and balanced development. Since initiating several agricultural projects in 2006, the government has invested $7.5 billion in agro-industrial plants and generated 78,000 new jobs in rural areas. The Agriculture Ministry plans to further invest in agriculture and rural development this year offering, for example, new grants for buffalo and goose farming and renewable energy projects. Turkey's success in this sector is only one of the many reasons why the country is poised to make significant contributions during its term in the G20 presidency.
In fact, the International Monetary Fund manager director and World Bank president have already commended Turkey for its "powerful" and "honest" presidency since the government assumed the role in December 2014. Just two weeks ago, the G20 produced a cautiously optimistic communique on the state of the global economy and recommended that emerging markets, in particular, take steps to avoid extreme capital movements as the U.S. Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates. Moving forward, the G20 will tackle a number of other issues central to the Turkish G20 presidency's goal of "ensuring inclusive and robust growth through collective action," including a G20 and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) roundtable on long-term investment in Singapore at the end of this month.
As the G20 convenes throughout the year to promote international financial stability and in the lead up to its 10th annual summit in Antalya this fall, Turkey and its own economic expertise will likely continue to be in the spotlight. As Western countries and other major economies seek to help bridge the gap between the rich and poor, they would do well to remember Turkey as a resource and example of inclusive and robust growth.
About the author
*The president of the Turkish Heritage Organization, New York
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