Turkish exporter Çekok Group has commenced exports of its first kiwifruit to the European Union market. According to CEO Cevdet Çekok, the company has collaborated with Zespri to trial 10ha of golden kiwifruit at its farm in Sakarya, to add to 150ha of its own kiwifruit orchards and 60ha of its partner’s production in the same region.
Through this joint venture, Çekok Group has been growing significant volumes of green and golden kiwifruit, not only for export but also for the domestic market.
“We are excited to be harvesting our first kiwifruit this year,” says Çekok. “Our yields are higher than expected, so we are very pleased. The main reason behind this success is Turkey’s outstanding soil structure and climate, as well as Çekok’s own long experience and knowledge of the business. At Çekok Group, we pay particular attention to food safety and pesticide residues. Every step is taken with the same attentive and meticulous approach, and any application to our kiwifruit orchards is performed according to European Food Safety Authority standards and the Residual Management Plan.”
The company’s first kiwifruit exports have already commenced, with Cekok reporting good quality in terms of the fruit’s sugar content and dry matter. “We have been exporting to countries including Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Romania and Bulgaria,” says Çekok. “We have received positive feedback on the excellent and unique quality, aroma, flavour and long shelf-life of Turkish kiwifruit. It is extremely popular on the European market.”
Given the suitability of kiwifruit production in Turkey, Çekok sees huge potential for the country to become an important player in the European kiwifruit market, and hopes to open the door for other items.
“We hope that the initial success of our kiwifruit programme can pave the way for more Turkish fruits to be shipped to Europe without any issues,” says Çekok. “We are expanding our own kiwifruit plantations to produce as much fruit as possible. We hope that Turkish kiwifruit will become a favourite on the European market in the foreseeable future. We believe that our success will encourage other Turkish farmers and companies to boost production volumes significantly.”
Çekok Group was established in 1953, initially making its name as a citrus grower association before the company’s owners realised the huge commercial potential of fruit and vegetables in Turkey. This led to the construction of new packhouses and farms, the opening of wholesale shops and the establishment of companies in the Netherlands and Bulgaria. The company now boasts a range of 35 products, growing a volume of around 50,000 tonnes a year from its 1,250ha of orchards, all of which are GlobalGAP-certified.
Çekok also purchases products grown by farmers, supplying the supermarkets in Europe with its own refrigerated trucks. In 2017, the group sold 230,000 tonnes of produce, with turnover reaching US$250m, an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year.