Prices push farmers to slaughter milk cows for meat

Turkish Agriculture Credit Cooperatives Central Union (TTKKMB) General Director Bedrettin Yıldırım has said a shortage of livestock in Turkey, which drives meat prices up, is pushing milk producers to slaughter their milk cows, leading to decreased calf production.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, Yıldırım noted that the livestock sector in Turkey is facing the threat of decreasing milk production, as rising meat prices and falling milk prices force farmers to slaughter their milk cows. “More than 1 million milk cows have been slaughtered in the past few years, ultimately due to the shortage of livestock in the country, which has reduced the number of calves.

Our biggest fear is that milk producers will start to slaughter their milk cows again, like in previous years,” Yıldırım said.

He underlined that state support is necessary to balance milk production in the country. “In order to prevent a decrease in calf production, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs should support dairy producers by guaranteeing the purchase of milk. The ministry can distribute the milk to the 18 million students in Turkey if there is excess,” he added.

“Considering the fact that 30 million tourists visit Turkey per year and that the population is 70 million, the state should take precautions to meet the demand for meat of 100 million people. We should ease the difficulties of milk producers. Ayran (a yoghurt drink) should be encouraged in hotels and on air carriers. If there is still extra milk, we can make it into powdered milk.”

Moreover, Şaban Ünlü, a local pastırma (cured spiced beef) and sausage producer in the province of Kayseri, noted in a previous statement that rising meat prices should be analyzed together with falling milk prices. “The most crucial reason meat prices increase is because of the steep decline in milk prices that started two years ago.

When milk prices start to fall, producers slaughter their milk cows in order to keep their losses to a minimum. Therefore, many cows, sheep, calves and lambs are slaughtered when meat prices increase significantly,” Ünlü said, adding that the price of milk should not exceed TL 0.85, or 85 kuruş, per liter.

Separately, Yıldırım mentioned that the TTKKMB aims to provide TL 3.1 billion in loans this year, TL 600 million of which will be allocated to the livestock sector. The head of TTKKMB underlined that the union had provided TL 302 million in loans to farmers in 2002 and TL 2.65 billion in 2010. TTKKMB has 1,791 cooperatives, 105 service offices and 16 area unions across Turkey, which serve about 1.1 million farmers.

“Today, the TTKKMB has no debt to any bank or financial institution. Our creditworthiness with Turkish banks is equal to TL 1.5 billion,” said Yıldırım. “We provide these loans with an interest rate of 5 percent annually, while loans with a maturity of five years are interest-free.”

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