How Turkey's Earthquake Affected the Agriculture and Food Security

March 7, 2023

Rural development efforts are urgently needed for better food security.
An aerial view of fissure with a length of 400 m, a width of 200 m and a depth of 50 m, diving olive garden into two parts in Tepehan Neighbourhood after 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes hit multiple provinces of Turkiye including Hatay on February 11, 2023. Photo by Anadolu Images.


hile the long-term effects of climate change continue, the COVID-19 epidemic, which spread at the end of 2019 and continued for almost two years, and the Ukraine-Russia war that followed, have had significant negative effects on agriculture and food security. While these negative effects were gradually decreasing across the world, Turkey was shaken by two devastating earthquakes in the middle of winter. So much so that a “level 4” alarm and an international call for help was made to tackle their effects. In response to this call, aid offers were received from 100 countries, and around 80 countries participated or contributed to the search and rescue efforts with approximately 7,000 personnel.

The first of the earthquakes occurred at 04:17 on Monday, February 6, 2023, with a magnitude of 7.7, centered in the town of Pazarcık in Kahramanmaraş province. The second earthquake occurred on the same day at 13:24, centered in the town of Elbistan of the same province, with a magnitude of 7.6 and 80.2 km from the epicenter of the first earthquake. The most important feature of these earthquakes was that they were very close to the surface at a depth of 8.6 and 7.0 km, respectively, in addition to their magnitude.

Unlike other big earthquakes that have occurred across the world, the fact that these two earthquakes occurred at a depth very close to the Earth’s surface increased their destructiveness and caused the Anatolian peninsula to shift 3 meters to the west. The many images reflected in the media in the form of massive crevices and collapses in the fields reveal the possible effects of the earthquake on agriculture.

Possible effects of earthquakes on agriculture

Depending on their magnitude, earthquakes can have different effects such as delays and pauses in agricultural activities, as well as damage to production resources and difficulty in reaching them. Landslides, and cracks and breaks in agricultural lands caused by earthquakes make it difficult and even prevent the use of agricultural lands. In addition, agricultural irrigation systems, in other words agricultural structures such as irrigation channels and pipes, may be damaged. Migration due to the effects of earthquakes may also hinder agricultural production.

On the other hand, earthquakes have negative effects on crop and animal production activities as well. These may be in the form of delays or inability to carry out agricultural production activities, as well as loss of product, stored input, and livestock. Slips and collapses can make harvesting difficult or even impossible, and cause harvest losses. There may also be a shortage of feed due to the fact that the animal feeds are under the rubble. Crop and animal production processes that need energy can cause losses due to long-term power cuts and lack of fuel.

Decreases in the quantity and quality of crop and animal production, which may occur due to negative effects of earthquakes on agriculture, may increase prices. Disruptions that may occur in many stages of the food supply chain, such as transportation, storage, processing, and wholesale and retail trade, may cause loss of agricultural products and increase food prices. These developments may trigger food inflation and then general inflation.

The importance of the earthquake zone in Turkey’s agriculture 

Each of the eleven provinces affected by the earthquake has a high agricultural potential. Approximately 15 percent of the total agricultural land in Turkey, that is, 3.6 million hectares of 23.9 million hectares of total land, is located in the earthquake zone, primarily Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, and Adana. The number of registered agricultural enterprises and farmers in the earthquake area is around 270,000. The earthquake area accounts for about 20 percent of the total crop production in Turkey, and about 15 percent of Turkey’s livestock.

The eleven provinces affected by the earthquakes have 2.6 million hectares of field crops containing cereals and other crop products, representing 15.5 percent of Turkey’s crop production. Vegetable production areas in the earthquake zone amount to 15.2 percent of Turkey’s vegetable production area with 110,000 hectares. The eleven provinces in the earthquake zone produce 25 percent of Turkey’s fruit, beverages, and spices with planting areas of 930 million hectares. Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, and Adana are at the forefront in field crops, Adana and Hatay in vegetables, and Gaziantep in fruit.

On the other hand, approximately 20 percent of Turkey’s exports of agricultural and forestry products come from the earthquake zone. More than half of the agricultural exports of the earthquake region are from Gaziantep. While the eleven provinces affected by the earthquake have a rate of approximately 9 percent in Turkey’s gross domestic product, their share of the gross domestic product of the agricultural sector is 14.3 percent. These figures show that the income of the earthquake region is predominantly from agriculture.

The effects of the earthquake on agriculture and food security

According to the latest figures, the earthquake caused approximately 45,000 deaths, while we do not have clear figures on deaths in rural areas. It has been stated that there were significant casualties in many rural areas and villages, and this varies from one province to another. The significant loss of life in the elderly population, which is predominantly in rural areas and villages, may lead to a further decrease in the population engaged in agriculture, which is already inadequate, and to interruption of agricultural activities. Those who have lost their relatives may not be able to work efficiently for a while due to psychological difficulties. In addition to loss of life, migrations in rural areas might have occurred as a result of grievances and hardship.

The collapse of barns and other buildings besides houses in rural areas has also led to loss of livestock; damage to machinery, equipment, and tools; has reduced inputs such as seed and feed; and caused loss of quality of seed and feed. Therefore, there may be temporary problems in the use of tractors, machinery, and equipment, and regarding the adequacy of feed and seed. There may be difficulties in the supply of inputs such as diesel, fertilizer, seeds, and pesticides used in agricultural production, which will start gradually in March, and thus, there may be disruptions in crop production. The difficulties that arise in the transportation, processing, packaging, storage, and wholesale and retail trade stages of the food value chain, along with the losses of agricultural and food products caused by the massive destruction in cities will affect food security.

Since the earthquake did not occur during the cropping period, there is no loss due to slides and collapses in the fields or disruption of production processes such as planting, hoeing, and harvesting. From this point of view, the decrease in agricultural products and thus increase in food prices may be limited, as there will be no reduction in production except livestock losses and damage to the products in the warehouses. If the measures that need to be taken for the next production period are not implemented effectively, this might decrease production and trigger food inflation resulting from the disruption of production processes in the region with approximately 15 percent agricultural potential.

Turkey has played a very important role in reining in the repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine war, which has been on the world agenda for a year now. One of Ankara’s main objectives will be the extension of the Black Sea Grain Corridor Initiative, which will expire in March. Turkey engaged in long negotiations with Russia for the initiative, which was extended for a period of 120 days in December 2022. Depending on the results of the efforts by Turkey, which acts as a mediator between the parties and takes an active part in the solution of the global food crisis, in the post-earthquake period, the world food supply security may also be affected by the earthquake.

Agricultural support for the earthquake zone         

Similar to the cities, facilities such as tents, containers, and temporary houses provided for those living in the region’s rural areas will ensure that farmers and their families whose houses are uninhabitable will stay in their villages. Other than housing aid, which will improve living and working conditions, other aid will ensure farmers do not leave the countryside and stay in their villages, thus preventing the interruption of agricultural activities. In this context, in addition to public aid, the aid of non-governmental organizations, the public, and the international community has fulfilled an important function and will continue to do so. In addition, emergency aid such as government support of 15,000 TL for each of the earthquake victims and the declared agricultural support are of great importance. In addition to this short-term and temporary emergency support, it is essential that a long-term, permanent rural transformation that will improve the working and living conditions in the countryside is planned and implemented as soon as possible.

The Turkish government has declared that the farmers engaged in animal husbandry in the eleven provinces affected by the earthquake will be compensated in kind. In this respect, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will supply free of charge bovine and ovine breeders with the same number of cattle and small ruminant animals as those lost, poultry breeders with the same number as their lost poultry, and beekeepers will receive the same number of hives as those damaged in the earthquake. Meanwhile the presidential decision of providing feed support per animal to cattle and small ruminant animal breeders in the provinces damaged by the earthquake until the end of 2023 entered into force. On the other hand, the urgent sugar need for the 1,483,000 hives of 12,000 beekeepers in the eleven provinces will be met immediately.

For the farmers registered in the Farmer Registration System (ÇKS) in the eleven provinces declared as disaster areas, diesel and fertilizer support payments for the 2022 production year will be made immediately in cash. For the farmers who lost their lives in the earthquakes, the support payments will be paid in cash to their legal heirs if they apply to Ziraat Bank. The Turkish Grain Board (TMO) also announced that the products in the licensed warehouses damaged by the earthquake are insured and that the farmers who are in the earthquake zone and registered with the ÇKS can sell their grain and pulses products to TMO without any type or quota limit.


With the end of the search and rescue efforts after the earthquake, debris removal work started and is continuing rapidly. Apart from separating the large amount of debris and introducing the usable materials back into the economy, it is important to dump the remaining waste in suitable places in such a way as not to harm people’s and animals’ health, nature, the environment, and agriculture, and not to prevent rainwater reaching groundwater. In this direction, the work is carried out meticulously under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change and under the coordination of the local governorships.

Immediately after the earthquake, all aid, including international aid, was at the highest level and even more than needed. It is anticipated that this aid, especially the aid by the public, non-governmental organizations, and the international community, will decrease over time and will not be continuous, and therefore the mechanisms have been established to store the surpluses and use them over time. However, in terms of the region’s and the country’s food security, it is important that agricultural activities in the region are carried out without interruption and that the functionality of the food value chain is ensured in a sustainable manner. Consequently, it is necessary for farmers to be present in the fields to take care of the winter plantings on time and to start the farming in the spring period so as to rebuild the deteriorated food value chain.

Some of the farmers engaged in agricultural activities lost their lives in the earthquake, and some migrated from the region due to the lack of suitable living conditions and the trauma caused by the earthquake. In addition to providing minimum living conditions, especially in the countryside, to prevent migration and help rapid returns, the working conditions must be improved urgently by eliminating the deficiencies in the tractors, tools, and production inputs required for agricultural production. Thus, while trying to meet the need for shelter and food within the framework of general aid, it was declared that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and related institutions would provide additional agricultural support. It is essential that this aid and support continue until the conditions return to normal.

There is a saying in Turkish that goes, “One misfortune is better than a thousand pieces of advice.” It is necessary to form and implement more effective policies in order to improve the living and working conditions in rural areas of the earthquake zone and nationwide by learning lessons from the earthquake that occurred in the mid-south of Anatolia. Further rural development efforts, which will improve the situation of not only those engaged in agriculture, but all rural residents, are urgently needed for better food security and for reducing the population and settlement density in cities.

Thus, “rural transformation,” which can be the rural equivalent of urban transformation, will reduce the settlement pressure on agricultural lands around cities and contribute to the reduction of losses caused by earthquakes in both cities and rural areas. Countries with similar earthquake risk, rural settlement pattern, and building stock as Turkey would stand to benefit immensely from learning from the “Earthquake of the century.”


Fahri Yavuz is a full professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Atatürk University. He earned his master’s degree from the Department of Economics at Ohio State University, and his MS and Ph.D. degrees from the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics (AEDE) at the same institution. Yavuz specializes on agricultural policy, and has about 200 publications including articles, presentations, books, and reports. He has recently written the report entitled “Food Inflation in Turkey: An Indication of the Problems from Farm to Fork.”