The Pasta Production and Export in Turkey

The pasta is a type of food that is traditionally made from durum wheat flour, water, and eggs, formed into sheets or various shapes and then dried. It is one of the food products that are very nutritious and highly demanded in international markets. Today, pasta is the second most consumed food product after bread in the bakery products group, since it is nutritious, delicious, inexpensive, easy to cook, and has a long shelf-life.

Pasta’s ethnic roots have been long debated. There are two different myths in the history of pasta. The first one is based on the writings of the 13th-century explorer Marco Polo, that pasta was brought to Italy from China, rose from a misinterpretation of a famous passage in Polo’s Travels. The other one is that pasta was brought to Italy from Arabs. The Italian traders brought a food called “noodle” (al-rishta in Arabic) to their homeland. The pasta, which holds a significant place in world trade, is coded in the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) as 048.3, and defined in the Harmonized System Tariff Codes as 19.02 “Pasta; whether or not cooked or stuffed with meat or other substance, or otherwise prepared, egg spaghetti, macaroni, noodles, lasagne, gnocchi, ravioli, cannelloni; couscous, whether or not prepared”.

The demand for the pasta products shows a steady increase as a result of the facts such as changing consumer preferences due to western eating habits, the taste of the product, nutritiousness, easy-to-prepare and cook, long shelf-life. Due to the reason that the durum wheat which is the basic raw material of pasta is the mandatory item in pasta production and the hard wheat type is produced only in specific regions in the world, the countries where the production of pasta does not meet the domestic demand or the countries who do not produce any pasta products directly become importer countries. Countries also make imports to provide product range in their domestic markets.

The foundations of the pasta industry, which is one of the leading sectors in the Turkish food industry, were laid in the first period of the Republic. While pasta in Turkey was previously a product that was made and consumed at home under the name of noodle, pasta has started to be manufactured in Turkey with the first pasta factory established in İzmir in 1922 that was put into operation. The production which was made in small-scale enterprises and low capacities until the 1950s revolved into large-scaled enterprises in the 1960s and the total installed production capacity increased approximately 3 times in ten years between 1960 and 1970. In the 1970s, the momentum in the sector increased with the opening of large-scale facilities equipped with modern technology. As of 1980, as a result of increasing the installed capacities of the existing factories as well as the newly opened factories, a production capacity of 250 thousand tons and an annual production volume of 110 thousand tons were achieved in 6 plants in total.

Since the revival in Turkey's pasta export which has developed in parallel with the simultaneous growth in domestic demand since the early 1990s along with the industrialization strategy for export, large-scaled factories operating in the pasta sector have increased their capacities. Today, along with large-scale integrated facilities, there are many factories operate within the Turkish pasta industry, including facilities that work to meet the regional demand which has reached a level that can compete with technologically developed countries and the facilities which directed a significant part of their production to exports.

You may see Turkey's pasta production, export, import, and internal consumption from 2009 to 2018 in the table below.

Current production facilities in the sector are mainly centered in Southeastern Anatolia, Central Anatolia, and Western Anatolia regions, which are the growing areas of hard durum wheat, which is the main ingredient in pasta production in terms of geographical distribution.

The pasta consumption in Turkey has been increasing in parallel with the global consumer habits since it has different benefits such as having a high nutritional value, cheap price, easy storing and cooking opportunity, being produced with modern technology, being affordable, and providing a higher nutritional value if consumed with extra sauces. The most commonly preferred pasta types in Turkey are spaghetti, noodles, bread, ravioli, chiocciole, conchiglie, fusilli, farfalle, maccheroni. In recent years, different kinds of pasta for export purposes have taken their place in the product ranges of the Turkish companies. Besides, couscous and vermicelli, stelline, and alphabet pasta are also highly demanded by consumers.

The first pasta export in Turkey was made in 1970, after 48 years from the first pasta industry production which was in 1922. As of this date, despite the periodic fluctuations in Turkey's pasta exports, significant increases have been recorded in the long term. The pasta exports in Turkey, which declined based on value as a result of the global crisis in 2009, totaled 297 thousand tons and 186 million USD in 2010 as a result of the decrease in the effects of the crisis, showed an increase compared to the previous year, amounting to 39.3% in terms of quantity and 24.4% in value.  In 2018, the total pasta export in Turkey totaled at the level of 1 million 206 thousand tons.

In general, it is possible to examine the progress of Turkish pasta export in two periods as 1970-1990 and after 1990. It is seen that in the first period, the pasta export in Turkey developed a steady increase as a result of the newly established pasta factories and the increasing production capacity of the existing ones. However, these increases could not reach higher levels due to the fact that the domestic demand for these products was not in parallel with the supply quantity. While the pasta export in Turkey was only 13 tons in 1970, it increased to 2.197 tons in 1980 and to 13.022 tons between 1980-1990.

In the second period which involves the years after 1990, with the implementation of the export-oriented industrialization strategy, the companies which had export potential exported their surplus production by increasing their production volume and production capacity rates. On the other hand, factors such as the emergence of the Turkish Republics, which gained their independence with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the implementation of the Inward Processing Regime of Turkey and the Customs Union Agreement that entered into force as of January 01, 1996, have supported Turkey's pasta export to increase over the years. As a result of the 1991 Gulf crisis, the embargo which was put into Iraq, which was Turkey's fourth-largest pasta products market in 1991, the anti-dumping and compensating taxes which was put into effect by the USA, our most important export market in 1996, the crises of Southeast Asia in 1997 and then Russian in 2018, the pasta exporters in Turkey turned towards the Middle East and African countries. A steady increase in exports has been achieved since 1999. The pasta exports in Turkey increased approximately 2 times between 1990-2000 and 27 times between 2000-2015, reaching 672,000 tons. While the most important markets for Turkish pasta exporters were the USA between 1989-1995, Russia between 1995-1999, Belgium in 2000, and Georgia in 2011; in 2003 and 2004 United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan were the most important pasta export markets for Turkey. While the most important markets for Turkish pasta exporters between 2005-2008 were the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and Benin, it was Angola, Togo, Benin, Iraq, and Japan in 2011, and Benin, Angola, Japan and Iraq in 2015, respectively.

 You may find the export value, exchange ratio compared to the previous year, export quantity, and price per unit tons of the Turkish pasta export in the last decade in the table below. It is seen that except for 2015, there has been a steady increase in the pasta export in Turkey since 2009. In 2015, the pasta export in Turkey decreased by 17.53% compared to the previous year. 

According to the data of the International Trade Center (ITC), Turkey ranks number four, following Italy, China, and South Korea in 2019 global pasta exports. Turkey constitutes 6% of the global pasta exports.


When Turkey’s pasta export is analyzed by region, it is seen that Africa is on the top. The pasta export from Turkey to Africa region in 2019 constitutes 56% of the total pasta exports of Turkey.

You may find the countries to which Turkey exports pasta the most. We analyzed the data of the pasta export in Turkey between 2015-2019, the export value, the exchange ratio, the exchange ratio between 2018-2019, and the export shares in the pasta industry in 2019.

You may find the data about the potential markets of Turkey along with the increasing pasta export values in the last decade. You may see the top 25 pasta importer countries, the ratios of these countries in the global pasta imports, the exchange ratios, and Turkey's export ratio to these countries in the table below.

Source: The Turkish Ministry of Trade - Pasta Industry Report, ITC

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