With more than half of its 74 million citizens under the age of 30, and with population growth of around half-a-million people a year, Turkey is a country in the ascendency.

And the same can be said of its egg and poultry industries.

The poultrymeat sector has doubled in size in the past 10 years, while exports, which came to 248,000t last year, are on target to reach 535,000t by 2016.

Production is in the hands of 21 integrated companies and contributes 6.3% to Turkish agricultural output, producing 1.73m tonnes of poultrymeat in 2011.

While feed prices are similar to those in Europe, labour is considerably cheaper, with factory staff taking home under £5,000 a year on average.

One of the major integrators is Beypiliç, at Bolu in the north of the country. A global supplier to Burger King, it produces 360,000 broilers a day. The company is about to double capacity of its feed mill to 860,000t a year, having already taken delivery of the new equipment.

Plans for the doubling of the slaughtering and processing facilities are also well advanced and foundation work has commenced. The existing processing facilities produce chicken burgers, kebabs, meatballs, nuggets and schnitzels.

The major hurdle Beypiliç says it faces is recruiting enough contract growers. The company is therefore encouraging existing growers to build new 200,000-bird sites. It is understood one has started on a 400,000-bird unit.

With a claimed net profit of €27,000 a crop for a contract grower taking 100,000 birds to 43 days of age, maybe recruitment won’t be such an issue.

Egg production

The Turkish egg industry, although more fractured than the broiler sector, is also growing fast.

It is the world’s 11th largest operator, producing almost 14bn eggs in 2011. Egg exports have increased by more than 200% from the end of 2009 to 2012 and are on target to reach US$320m by the end of this year.

Local shell egg consumption is almost identical to that of the UK, at 188 eggs per person per year. Table eggs make up 90% of production, but some of the large integrators are now investing in state-of-the-art egg processing facilities.

Keskinoglu, the largest Turkish egg company, produces more than 4 million eggs a day and has almost completed building its second 2.2 million layer site, with cages that will require very little modification to reach EU enriched cage standards.

This is currently expected to be required in 2015, though it is likely to be delayed at least a year. A Moba FT500 packing line, handling 180,000 eggs an hour, has just been installed at the company’s fourth packing station.

Keskinoglu also has its own egg tray manufacturing factory using waste paper and cardboard, churning out 400m trays a year. And it has its own composting site producing 500t a day of poultry-derived organic fertiliser in bag, bulk and liquid formats.

With 1.4m tonnes of feed capacity at its two mills to feed the layers and the 300,000 broilers it rears each day, Keskinoglu is a good example of the Turkish poultry industry: successful, entrepreneurial and growing.

Future plans

So should the UK poultry industry be worried?

Two major factors need to be considered – the salmonella status of Turkish poultry flocks and the country’s plans for accession to the EU.

While Turkey has a stated aim of zero salmonella for all serotypes in poultry, it is not yet effectively implementing a programme to achieve this. Research in 2010 showed salmonella levels in Turkish layer flocks to average over 55%, while earlier work showed broiler flocks averaging 39%. Clearly much remains to be done.

As for negotiations surrounding Turkey’s accession to the EU, these have been ongoing for some years. However, with the recent European credit crisis leading to questions about the long-term survival of the euro, membership of the EU is looking less attractive.

Currently a free-trade agreement exists for industrial goods, but import tariffs remain on Turkish agricultural produce. European producers are therefore insulated to an extent from Turkey’s cheaper poultry production.

While the official line remains that Turkey intends to accede, the country is really concentrating its export drive in the Middle East.

Iraq tops the list of destinations for poultrymeat, followed by the so-called “Turkish Republics” (including Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan), Libya, Iran, Jordan and Russia.

So, with a growing population that is eating more meat and eggs each year, and with plenty of nearby countries open to Turkey’s exports, the UK has little to fear, at least until Turkey joins the EU – or the UK leaves.

More on this topic

Keep up with the latest poultry news