Forest fires ravaging southern Turkey hit agriculture hard

Forest fires ravaging the coastal regions of southern and western Turkey, which firefighters are struggling to contain due to strong winds, have already caused severe damage to agricultural fields and farms. From now on, the production of olives, honey and many fruits and vegetables is threatened.

As of Tuesday, only 13 out of dozens of wildfires remained as firefighters in six provinces had been working since last Wednesday to put out the fires. The worst fires in terms of size and speed occur in the districts of Manavgat and Gündoğmuş in the south of Antalya and in the districts of Marmaris and Milas in the south-west of Muğla.

Manavgat’s banana and vegetable greenhouses as well as its olive and citrus groves were damaged by the fires. In Muğla, the pines – from which the bees harvest the honeydew – were particularly damaged.

According to the preliminary assessment of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, forest fires over the past five days have put honey production at risk in Muğla since some 80% of the region, which is home to 45% of the Turkey’s total bee farm, was set on fire. in ashes.

Mutlu Ayhan, president of the Marmaris Chamber of Commerce, said an area of ​​8,000 to 8,500 hectares had burned down.

“We produced around 3,000 tonnes of 165,000 honeycombs every year. Marmaris is the pine honey capital of the world … 80% of the production areas are left in ashes,” he said.

The head of the Union of Turkey Beekeepers Center, Ziya Şahin, said that there are 8.2 million bees all over Turkey, and 3 to 3.5 million of them come to Muğla every year to make pine honey. Stating that the bees feed on the secretions of the pines until March-April, ahin said, “These trees were destroyed because of the fire. Only the pines of central Muğla and Fethiye district remained. There is a huge risk in pine honey. production now. There will be a decrease in production.

Firefighters on the ground and water bombers and helicopters above battled the blazes, while drone footage revealed a nearby gray landscape where fires had ravaged buildings and blackened tree trunks.

In Antalya Manavgat, nearly 700 decares of banana greenhouses, more than 100 decares of vegetable greenhouses, more than 15,000 decares of olive, laurel, carob and citrus fields were damaged. revealed preliminary assessments.

More than 300 cattle, around 3,000 sheep and goats, nearly 4,000 poultry and some 400 beehives were destroyed in the fire. Meanwhile, Ali Çandar, chairman of Antalya Commodity Exchange, said aid for animal feed and straw comes from exchanges in various parts of the country to be delivered to farmers.

“At our request, Uşak Commodity Exchange supplied 10 tonnes of fodder. Karapınar Commodity Exchange sent 35 trucks of fodder and straw to the area to deliver to our farmers. Balıkesir Commodity Exchange delivered a fodder truck, Ünye Commodity Exchange delivered a fodder truck. , and Konya Commodity Exchange delivered two feed trucks to the area. “

The Agricultural Insurance Pool (TARSIM) has also intervened in favor of farmers and breeders whose businesses have been damaged by forest fires. A total of 431 damage reports were sent to TARSIM. In total, 319 of these declarations were made for animal life insurance, 70 for greenhouse insurance and 44 for crop insurance branches. The total cost of insured assets for the notified cases is TL 85 million ($ 10.2 million).

The deadlines for the payment of social security premium debts of workplaces and insureds in areas affected by forest fires will be extended and the Turkish Organization for the Development of Small and Medium Industries (KOSGEB) has announced that it will provided zero-interest support loans with a limit of 100,000 TL and 250,000 TL for disaster-affected areas.

Currently, some 16 planes – including those that have come to the aid of Turkey – and 51 helicopters are tackling fires in southwestern Turkey. The EU said it had helped mobilize firefighting planes from Croatia and Spain to aid Turkey. Planes from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran also fought the fires. Spain said it was sending two water dump planes and a transport plane along with 27 soldiers to help.

Eight people were killed in the wildfires, but no more casualties were reported on Monday. Residents and tourists fled the resorts in flotillas of small boats or in convoys of cars and trucks.

In total, some 10,000 people were evacuated in Muğla province alone, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Monday.

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