Freshly picked and spread out in fields for drying, large amounts of sun-dried tomatoes are being sent from the eastern province of Bitlis to Europe, especially Italy, where they will be used to produce pasta and tomato sauces.
Tomatoes are planted in April and are left to dry in August and September following the harvest. After tons of tomatoes are cut in half, salted and sun-dried for 10 to 12 days, they are ready to be exported.
Speaking to local media, farmer Cüneyt Duk, who has been producing tomatoes in Adilcevaz district for 25 years, said they have only recently entered the sun-dried tomato sector after a trial harvest last year.
“Last year, we entered the sun-dried tomatoes business, and we started with 100 decares of land. This year we increased it, and now we have 250 decares of cultivated land. We export all of these dried tomatoes to European countries, especially Italy. These tomatoes are used in pasta, sauce and pizza making. We also contribute to employment in the region. As of this year, we have around 150 to 200 workers. We plan to increase this number even more in the coming years and offer these tomatoes as a product to both our workers and farmers in the region.”
Stating that they dried about 4,000 tons of tomatoes this year, Duk said they get one kilo of dried tomatoes from about 10 to 12 kilos of fresh tomatoes and that they sometimes even buy more fresh tomatoes from neighboring farmers in the region.
İsmail Mürselim, a sun-dried tomato exporter, said that he has been doing this business in Bitlis for the last two years, after 10 years of growing tomatoes in southeastern provinces.
“We carried our business, which we have been doing in the Aegean for many years, to the eastern and southeastern provinces about a decade ago. Here in Bitlis, we sign contracts with farmers. We cut, salt and dry the tomatoes we buy from our farmers and export them.”