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Turkish exporters redirect sales away from Israel as trade plunges

Türkiye’s export dependency on Israel has been dwindling since the start of the latter’s unprecedented military campaign on the Gaza Strip, prompting many industries to redirect sales toward alternative markets.

The trade volume plunged after Israel launched indiscriminate attacks on Gaza in early October in response to a cross-border attack by the Palestinian resistance group Hamas.

Before the conflict, Türkiye and Israel had ramped up diplomatic contacts to repair long-strained ties but have halted all engagements since October. Throughout the years of tensions, the countries maintained trade links, which remained at high levels and even hit a record in 2022

However, their bilateral exchange, which stood at $8.91 billion (TL 273.98 billion) in 2022, has nosedived since the start of the latest conflict.

Trade Minister Ömer Bolat earlier this month affirmed the decline and said there was a nearly 50% drop in trade with Israel.

The Israeli air and ground strikes have turned vast areas into ruins and have killed more than 28,570 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured over 68,290 others, local health authorities said on Wednesday.

Many other people are believed to be buried under the rubble of destroyed buildings across the densely populated Gaza Strip, much of which is in ruins. Supplies of food, water and other essentials are running out and diseases are spreading.

About 1,200 Israelis were killed in the Hamas attack, according to Israeli tallies.

Türkiye, which supports a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, has called Israel a “terror state” that commits war crimes and violates international law in the Palestinian enclave.

Turkish exports had already been seeking to diversify markets to expand their reach and have swiftly shifted their focus from Israel to primary and alternative markets.

In January alone, shipments to Israel slid by more than 31% compared to September volume before the conflict started, according to a report by Anadolu Agency, citing official data.

Exports dropped to $318 million, down from $461.9 million in September, the data compiled by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) showed.

Israel’s share in Türkiye’s exports fell to 1.6% last month from 2% in September.

In January, two sectors did not conduct any exports to Israel, the report said.

Israel was the second top market for Turkish steel exports last September. This January, it slipped to rank tenth, as the industry replaced Israel and shifted more toward Germany, the United States and Iraq.

The steel sector’s exports decreased by 62% to $35.1 million last month, down from $92.4 million in September.

Israel slid to rank 13th in Türkiye’s exports of cereals, pulses, oil seeds and related products in January, the data showed. It ranked eighth in September before sales plunged by more than 35% to $21.3 million last month.

In fresh fruit and vegetable shipments, it dropped to rank 17th, compared to September when it was the fifth top destination, as exports shrank by almost 62% to $4 million.

Instead, exporters focused more on Syria, Germany, Libya and Venezuela in the cereals, pulses and oil seeds sales, while Ukraine, Poland and Bulgaria came forward for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector.

Overall, exports to Israel decreased in 21 sectors compared to September 2023, the TIM data showed.

The steel industry, along with the fresh fruit and vegetable sector, experienced the most significant declines. They were followed by the leather and leather goods, which saw a nearly 55% drop, amounting to $1.1 million.

The sectors of “ships, yachts and services” and “ornamental plants and products” did not conduct any exports to Israel last month, according to the data.

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