Misguided policies push Turkish youth out of farming
Due to misguided agricultural policies, rural to urban migration has been on the rise in Turkey, with young people no longer interested in pursuing farming and livestock activities. In the Uzunkopru district of Edirne, the average age of farmers has risen to 59, indicating the growing challenges in the agricultural sector.
The increasing costs of agricultural inputs have placed significant burdens on farmers. The costs of diesel fuel, fertilizer, agricultural chemicals, and labor have been steadily increasing every year. However, farmers are increasingly frustrated as the purchase prices for crops such as wheat, corn, hazelnuts, and tea often fall below production costs. These wrong agricultural policies are exacerbating rural-to-urban migration, as young people distance themselves from farming, leading to an aging population of farmers.
According to data from the Turkish Agricultural Chambers Union (TZOB), there are approximately 5,162,000 farmers in Turkey. Of this population, 82% are male, and 18% are female. A staggering 34% of farmers are aged 65 and above, while 34.6% fall in the 50-64 age group, 26.4% are aged 33-49, only 3.8% are aged 25-32, and a mere 1% are aged 18-24. The average age of farmers in Turkey currently stands at 58.1.
Further data from the Agriculture and Livestock Commission of the Edirne Provincial General Assembly reveals that Uzunköprü district, with its approximately 60,000 population dependent on agriculture and livestock, has 5,554 registered farmers in the Agricultural Registration System (ÇKS). Of these farmers, 2,713 are 61 years old or older, 1,362 fall in the 51-60 age range, 856 are aged 41-50, 430 are aged 31-40, and only 124 are aged 21-30. Consequently, the average age of farmers in this district has soared to 59.
Commenting on this data for Arti Gercek Ziraat Engineer Erdogan Yanilmaz emphasized the concerning trend of rural-to-urban migration due to decades of misguided agricultural policies in Turkey. Yanılmaz stated, "We are especially failing to keep young people in the villages and provide them with proper agricultural education. Young people believe that they can find better opportunities in the city than in farming, leading to their detachment from agriculture. This is a direct consequence of the wrong agricultural policies implemented in recent years, leaving only an elderly population in the villages."
Erdal Akgun, a farmer from Buyukismailce Village, pointed out that young people are drifting away from agriculture due to their inability to see a promising future in it. Akgün drew attention to the stark decrease in the purchase price of silage corn, which dropped from 1.3-1.4 Turkish Liras last year to as low as 40 kuruş this year, questioning how farmers can sustain themselves under such conditions.
Akgün also highlighted the lack of support for farmers and livestock breeders, saying, "Our village has 60 households. Unfortunately, due to policies that have been implemented for years, only 4-5 households have managed to keep livestock. Livestock farming has come to a standstill, and incorrect decisions have brought us to this point. As a result, no one wants to remain in agriculture. Young people are leaving."
The trend of rural-to-urban migration driven by misguided agricultural policies poses a significant challenge for the future of farming in Turkey. Urgent action and a reevaluation of these policies are essential to reverse this trend and revitalize the agricultural sector, ensuring the sustainability of rural communities.