They grow their own fruit so they can ensure the quality of their goods from the very start. Anadolu Etap’s goal: to become one of the leading fruit companies in Europe.
Peaches, nectarines, pears and apples as far as the eye can see: the fruit and fruit juice company Anadolu Etap cultivates various types of fruit on about 1,000 hectares (c. 2,500 acres) of land on Tahirova Farm in western Turkey, about 300 kilometres from Istanbul. And they do so in a sustainable fashion. The plantation is the largest in Turkey and only one of eight farms operated by the company. Anadolu Etap cultivates 5 million fruit trees on 3,000 hectares (c. 7,500 acres) of land. “It is particularly beautiful here when the trees are in bloom and you are surrounded by a sea of white and pink blossoms,” says Aysel Oguz, Sales Supervisor at Anadolu Etap. She regularly visits the plantations with her customers throughout the year. “After all, they want to always keep an eye on the quality of their goods,” she continues. “Fruit is a ‘living product’, and there are many factors that can influence the yield of a harvest. And that’s exactly what makes this product so exciting for me.”
Anadolu Etap only shipped fruit juice concentrates at first, as fresh fruit was reserved for the domestic market. But now the company exports fresh goods to Asia, the Middle East and India, but also to Central and Eastern Europe. The Middle East is particularly important to Anadolu Etap given its geographical proximity. “With Jebel Ali as our port of call, Hapag-Lloyd offers us short connections from Europe to the Middle East, which is exactly what we need,” Oguz says. “You see, for us, the decisive factor is that the goods reach their destination quickly. Consumers want the fruit to still be firm in the shop.” For this to work out, the transit time cannot be longer than eight to ten days.
In 2010, the Anadolu Group, Özgörkey Holding and the Brazilian Cutrale Group jointly founded Anadolu Etap to meet market demand for high-quality fresh fruits and fruit juices. But even with all its success so far, Anadolu Etap has even larger ambitions: to become one of Europe’s leading fruit companies. And there’s something that makes this company special: Unlike other fruit traders, Anadolu Etap cultivates most of its produce itself. Doing so allows it to ensure the quality of its fruits from the very start.
Anadolu Etap grows 10 types of fruit and 100 different varieties. For example, on the Karapinar Plantation in Konya, in the southwest of the country, 15 different kinds of apples are grown alongside sour cherries. “Apples are particularly popular in Asia, which is our main sales market for this product,” Oguz explains. “But we tend to ship stone fruits and pomegranates to Europe. On the other hand, we send our entire range of products to the Middle East because it is close by, which gives us short transit times.” For longer distances, such as to Hong Kong or Malaysia, the company currently still relies on air transport. “Transit times for these destinations are 25 to 30 days via ship, which is too long for most fruits,” she says. However, she adds, if it were able to use reefer trucks to also handle the inland transport, the company could ship more fruit in the long term.
Since not all goods are well suited for being shipped to far-off countries, Oguz has divided up the fruits according to sensitivity. For example, she explains, stone fruits are very sensitive, so they can only be brought to nearby countries in Europe or the Middle East. On the other hand, since they can be transported for longer periods of time, plum fruits can travel greater distances, such as to Asia. “We are always on the lookout for new destinations, including smaller countries like Réunion and Mauritius,” Oguz continues. “And then we look into how we can boost our volumes over the long term. Generally speaking, the African market is very attractive to us.”
Anadolu Etap is a very young company with a holistic approach. “We believe it is important to grow our fruits sustainably – in the interests of both quality and the environment,” Oguz says. As part of this effort, the company provides its farmers with training on how to cultivate properly. In addition, the farms also have kindergartens and schools. “There are seasonal workers on the plantations, and they are mostly women who usually bring their children along,” Oguz says. “Having schools on site makes it possible for them to continue their education.” In fact, about 70 per cent of the seasonal workers are female, and an average of 155 children receive an education in this way each year. But children aren’t the only ones learning, as the company also runs its own “AgroAcademy” training centre, where it regularly trains women farmers so as to increase the number of qualified women in its workforce. At the same time, Anadolu Etap wants to give women an opportunity to play a more active role in the economy while reducing the jobless rate among women.
For Oguz, the fact that the company she works for is so actively committed to the advancement of women is the icing on the cake. “But I also like my job a lot because every day is different – and especially because no season is like the one before,” she says. After all, in addition to the crop yield, the business is also significantly influenced by social, economic and political circumstances. For example, when India banned imports from China last year, it opened a door for apples to be imported from Turkey. When asked what could be improved, Oguz says: “I wish that services with faster transit times were also offered outside the peak season. The fact is that we supply fresh produce to customers all over the world all year round.”