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Rapunzel Turkey: highest quality guaranteed

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

Turkey began to export organic products over 30 years ago, and nuts and dried fruit became established as classics. Demand-driven exports created for the first time an awareness of organic farming among many small farmers in Turkey. This led to producer networks and processing facilities being created that took and processed their products before exporting them first to Europe and then across the world. The product range and the goods manufactured from them have increased significantly since those early days of organic cultivation. Organic-Market.Info visited the pioneer Rapunzel near Izmir, that has been operating in Turkey since 1976. In 1997, Rapunzel Turkey was founded in Ören. (Picture: Sultanas being selected by hand)

Conspicuous in this sultana and apricot growing region, the German wholefood enthusiast can see from afar the Rapunzel tower and the yellow-green buildings (picture) of this traditional firm from the Allgäu region in Germany. Rapunzel has operated its own processing plant since 1997 in Kemalpasa-Ören, 30 km to the east of Izmir. Before that, for many years Rapunzel had a project office here, where they organized giving advice to farmers about organic cultivation and coordinated the processing at certified organic processing firms. “We work with about 600 farmers in Turkey, who farm a total of more than 2,500 ha organically,” explains operations manager Akin Aküzüm. The crops they grow for Rapunzel are mainly apricots, figs, sultanas, hazelnuts, pine nuts and pulses. Four agricultural advisers and two assistants counsel the farmers on a regular basis in one-to-one discussions or hold seminars for groups. (Picture: Rapunzel production hall in Ören near Izmir, with almond trees in the foreground)

In the last two years the 15-year-old processing plant in Ören has been thoroughly renovated and equipped with new machines. Work has also been carried out to improve hygiene, such as new floor coverings and the tiling of walls. In the interest of fire safety, one of the measures introduced is the installation of fire doors. Among the measures to save energy are new cooling units, the use of low energy bulbs and roll doors to the refrigeration rooms that close automatically after use. According to Akin Aküzüm (picture on right), these improvements have already reduced electricity consumption by 25 %.

Two UV darkrooms, each with a 12 metre-long conveyor belt, have been set up to screen every single fig in order to improve the detection of aflatoxins. (Picture on left: Selecting almonds by hand)

Depending on the season, 100 - 300 women work in production in the factory in Ören. Using various techniques, they check and clean the raisins, figs, apricots, etc., before packing, labelling and getting them ready for dispatch. Rapunzel Turkey employs another 35 people in administration. All employees receive a midday meal free of charge in the recently renovated canteen, with 250 lunches being served every day. (Picture: Sorting sultanas)

70 % of Rapunzel’s production in Ören goes direct to the parent company in Legau. 30 % is exported to France, Sweden, Great Britain, Japan and the USA. The manager of Rapunzel Turkey is particularly proud of the traceability of goods from the six-storey storage facility (space for 3,600 pallets) back to the field. If there are complaints, he can respond immediately and, if necessary, withdraw a batch of goods. The warehouse for receiving raw materials is kept at a constant 5°C, because this is where there is most danger of introducing pests. They adhere to strict hygiene regulations everywhere in the Rapunzel production facilities, and they carry out meticulous checks for insects. (Picture on left: View into the modern, chilled Rapunzel warehouse in Ören)

The Salihli region, about 70 km to the east of Izmir, is where you find the biggest Rapunzel village project in Turkey, and it has now grown into a genuine organic region. At the beginning of the 1990s, a large number of farmers from the village of Tekelioglu were willing to engage in organic farming. After the village had developed beyond all expectations, the five neighbouring villages in the Salihli region joined forces in order to farm in compliance with organic guidelines. Now there are 80 farming families producing sultanas, tomatoes (picture), chickpeas, cotton and other crops.

A lake adjacent to the fields, that was so polluted with pesticides it could not be used as drinking water or for fishing, is no longer toxic because of the organic practices and it can now be used once again. When they regularly meet with Rapunzel’s agricultural engineers, among the topics they discuss is the purchase of machines or joint projects. The Rapunzel staff give advice and offer their help, and they also tackle social issues. The local Rapunzel office integrates the whole family by, for example, organizing training for women.

However, the production of organics for Rapunzel goes far beyond the Izmir district and takes in many regions in Turkey. Hazelnuts are produced in the north on the Black Sea coast, rice in the north-east, and sweet apricots in Malatya in the south-east, where pistachios, mulberries and lentils come from too. And those splendid wild, tart apricots come from the centre of Turkey (Kayseri). Pine nuts and paprika come from a quite different location, namely the region south of the Sea of Marmara in the west of Turkey. Figs are dried on racks for Rapunzel to the south of Izmir in Aydin. Tomatoes and apricots are sundried on large cloths that are laid out in the harvested fields. After drying, they are carefully packed in Rapunzel’s own crates and sent to the factory in Ören for preparation for sale (cleaning, selecting, sorting, packing). (Picture on left: Map of Turkey with the various cropping regions)


Organic controls: top quality means food safety for consumers

Two years ago, the Swiss monitoring organization Bio.Inspecta took over the certification of the Turkish farms for Rapunzel. Now 600 organic farms, that are grouped together in 12 projects, are checked on a regular basis. The managing director of bio.Inspecta Turkey Ltd, that was founded in 2010, is Bernd Jauch (picture). The 44-year-old is both the business director of Bio.Inspecta AG in Switzerland and responsible for business in Turkey. The Swiss parent company and its subsidiaries carry out a total of roughly 5,000 organic inspections. As well as in Switzerland and Turkey, they operate in Iran, Albania and Russia. “Because there are no group certifications in Turkey, we inspect every single farm irrespective of size,” explains Jauch, who is frequently to be found in the Izmir office, where he has a staff of six.





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