Turkey's Olive Trees Threatened by Draft Law

If the new law gets the green light, any olive grove housing less than 15 trees per decare (2.5 acres) will not be classed as an olive grove and be put at risk for redevelopment.

By Julie Al-Zoubi
May. 30, 2017 08:12 UTC

Proposed changes to The Olive Law” which has pro­tected Turkey’s olive trees since the 1930’s could result in thou­sands of trees being cut down and olive groves replaced by mines, indus­trial projects and hous­ing schemes deemed to be pub­lic ben­e­fits” if a draft sub­mit­ted on 17th May moves for­ward.

If this law passes then all our and fel­low vil­lagers’ olive groves will be in dan­ger.- Haluk Yurtkuran, Adatepe Olive Oil and an Olive Oil Museum

Haluk Yurtkuran, co-founder and pres­i­dent of Adatepe Olive Oil and an Olive Oil Museum in the Çanakkale province of Turkey told Olive Oil Times, it is a draft law which will def­i­nitely kill ages-old olive trees on the Mediterranean and Aegean coast of Turkey by allow­ing min­ing, indus­trial and hous­ing projects on olive groves.”

Under exist­ing law (Article 9 Law No. 3573) olive groves are expected to have no more than 15 trees per decare (1,000 square meters, or approx­i­mately 0.25 acres). If the new law gets the green light, any olive grove hous­ing less than 15 trees per decare will not be classed as an olive grove.

Yurtkuran said, This is the most crit­i­cal point of this draft because all the olive groves in the Mediterranean and North Aegean regions of Turkey have very old trees which were planted tra­di­tion­ally 10 meters x 10 meters accord­ing to old know-how. So in most of the olive groves, the num­ber of olive trees are nat­u­rally less than 15 per decare.

Furthermore, until recent times, the land is divided among the inher­i­tors in very small pieces of land. Now, this rule has been changed but thou­sands of small farm­ers have very small scale groves. So with this new law, their groves will be under threat of not being counted as olive groves any­more and treated as ordi­nary fields.”

Currently, olive grow­ing land is pro­tected” from any indus­trial activ­ity other than olive oil pro­duc­tion. This encom­passes the grove and land within a three-kilo­me­ter radius. According to Yurtkuran, many small olive groves have been encroached upon by indus­trial, min­ing and hous­ing projects. Yurtkuran believes the new law would pose a threat to larger groves, where there was a pub­lic Benefit” in let­ting indus­trial plants, mines, and other activ­i­ties move in.

Adatepe lost its biggest olive grove to nation­al­iza­tion. Yurtkuran explained, Our biggest piece was nation­al­ized a few years ago just because of a high­way con­struc­tion which would pass through our grove.” When the com­pany objected they were told there was a pub­lic ben­e­fit” from the project.

In the widest and most pub­lic demon­stra­tion of oppo­si­tion to date, the Turkish group The Friends of Olives Association” (Zeytindostu Derneği) have launched a peti­tion called, Don’t touch my olive tree.” Over 18,000 peo­ple have signed the peti­tion and the orga­niz­ers hope to col­lect one mil­lion sig­na­tures against the pro­posed draft.

Haluk Yurtkuran

Prior to this cam­paign, local com­mu­ni­ties, the gen­eral pub­lic and asso­ci­a­tions includ­ing the National Olive and Olive Oil Council and The Friends of The Olive Association have voiced their oppo­si­tion to the pro­posed new law through sem­i­nars, protests and on social media plat­forms.

The gov­ern­ment, now in its fourth term in office, first attempted to change the olive law in its sec­ond term. Fears have been expressed that the gov­ern­ment is stronger and more con­fi­dent in get­ting the draft passed fol­low­ing April’s approval of the pres­i­den­tial regime.

Yurtkuran told Olive Oil Times, If this law passes then all our and fel­low vil­lagers’ olive groves will be in dan­ger. Our com­pany may have dif­fi­culty obtain­ing local prod­uct due to dimin­ish­ing olive pro­duc­tion in the region and will be obliged to pur­chase olives from the big plan­ta­tions from dif­fer­ent regions of Turkey.

This will affect our advan­tage of pro­duc­ing olive oil from the olives picked from our neigh­bor­hood which we believe has the best micro-cli­mate affect­ing the taste of the oil.”

Under cur­rent Turkish law, any­one who unlaw­fully cuts down an olive tree faces a fine of 2,000 Turkish Lira ($560) per tree. The draft amend­ment aims to remove the three-month prison term for unau­tho­rized ani­mal graz­ing on olive land; offend­ers would instead be fined 5,000 TL (around $1,400).

Adatepe teamed up with other farm­ers, olive oil com­pa­nies and NGO’s to raise pub­lic aware­ness and save Turkey’s olive trees. The com­pany was active in pre­vent­ing gold mines mov­ing into their neigh­bor­hood. Visitors to Adatepe’s olive oil museum are reminded that Olive is the real gold of this land” via posters on the walls. They are informed about the dan­gers posed by the draft law in explana­tory leaflets.

The Don’t touch my olive tree” peti­tion can be signed at Change.org.


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