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Turkey: weekly organic markets a great success

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

After a year of preparation, the day dawned when, in June 2006, the first weekly organic market was held in Istanbul-Sisli with 25 organic producers and retailers. A great success for Victor Ananias, Batur Sehirlioglu and their compatriots from the organic association Bugday. Even the organic farmers didn’t believed it would be successful. By now, eleven big weekly organic markets have been set up in Turkey, and each has become a magnet for customers. The next one is scheduled to open in July 2012 in Konya. The weekly market movement in Turkey is a superb example that could be transferred to other countries in the east and south-east of Europe. (Picture: Market hall in Ataköy)“Sow seeds and see them grow“: a large-scale banner (picture) with an image of Victor Ananias and this quotation is the first thing you notice when you enter the biggest and oldest of the weekly organic markets. The Turkish organic pioneer Ananias, who had the idea of weekly organic markets, sadly died in March 2011 at the age of 40 (see our earlier article). However, his work lives on more vigorously than ever and continues to develop both within and beyond the Bugday group. In Istanbul, Bugday has now set up four markets, and other organizers are behind the establishment of another three. Bugday similarly created a market in Samsun in 2008, and another is to follow this summer in Konya. In the capital Ankara and the university town Eskisehir, the local authorities have launched weekly organic markets, and in Izmir the driving force was the Turkish organic association ETO. Bugday has recently increased its membership and is pleased to have 2,200 people committed to the eco-lifestyle of “Wheat“, which is what Bugday means.

The great success of the markets can be explained not just by the unsurpassed freshness of the fruit and vegetables but above all by the fact that the prices are only minimally above those for conventional products. And their trump card is the unbeatable wide product range: as well as a big variety of seasonal vegetables, the 65 stands reflect the whole offer of organic products from all over Turkey. A number of them offer eco-textiles, imported household and cleaning materials and environmentally friendly and attractive shopping bags.
(Picture: Customer buying fresh herbs for her balcony)

“In contrast to other weekly organic markets in Europe or the USA, where producers from a region gather, in the case of Turkey they travel from across the whole country,” says Batur Sehirlioglu (on the left in the picture of the Bugday info-stand), who has worked at Bugday since 1998. All they have to do is bring their goods, their organic certificate and the blue table cloth with the Bugday emblem. The low tables (65 cm high and 1 m deep) are set up for a fee by staff at the market. The local authorities make only the comparatively low charge of five Turkish lira (2.20 euros) per day and table and 300 lira (130 euros) a year for a permit to sell goods at the market.

The organic market in Sisli is held on Saturdays. The market place
(1,500 m²)
is in the basement of a multi-storey car park. The other days are for conventional weekly markets, a clothes market or a secondhand market.

To ensure that everything on sale at the weekly organic markets is in fact organic, organic certificates have to be produced for checking, and random checks of the flow of goods are carried out with the help of Bugday’s database. There are a few free spaces, but producers are permitted to occupy them only if they fulfil special criteria - for example, if new product variants are offered that have not been available at all or only in insufficient volumes. In the meantime, the word has gone round among the landlords of flats that lots of people like shopping at the weekly organic market in Sisli, so their advertising now refers to the good shopping facilities and the proximity of the market.

One of Istanbul’s weekly markets that is not organized by Bugday is held on the Asian side of the city. In the Moda district, you see over 30 stands set up in the open on the wide paved paths of a park – a splendid atmosphere and shopping ambience, given the often sunny weather in Istanbul. (Picture: Weekly organic market in Moda)

When Bugday opens markets in other towns, they have to fulfil certain criteria. “We keep getting enquiries from local authorities who would like us to be a cooperation partner and organizer of weekly organic markets in their towns,” says Batur. “The requirements are a suitable space with a roof, sufficient parking and continuous advertising of the market for at least a year. It’s also important to integrate our own employees or those of the local authority into the work of supervising organic certificates. What we prefer, however, is setting up a so-called Participatory Guarantee System,” says Batur. “After all, it’s not just a question of showing your organic certificate and that’s an end to it,“ he explains. “We want to see a network of farmers and consumers being created. It’s a question of getting to know each other and establishing trust.” That’s the reason for a table covered with a cloth and a few chairs where anybody can sit down and have a cup of Turkish tea or coffee – in Sisli next to a stand selling delicious organic bakery goods and cake if you feel like something to eat. The author indulged in an excellent tiramisu sprinkled with Turkish coffee.

Internet site of Bugday in English:  

Contact for Bugday weekly markets:
Batur Sehirlioglu




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