By Muhammed Ali Gurtas
ANKARA (AA) - The total number of animals in Turkey amounted to 60.7 million heads last year, an 8.6 percent rise year-on-year, according to the country's statistical authority on Wednesday.
The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) said the number of bovine animals -- including cattle and buffalo -- reached 16.1 million heads in 2017, marking an annual increase of 13.2 percent.
"In the group of bovine animals, cattle number increased by 13.2 percent, and became 15.9 million heads; buffalo number increased by 13.6 percent, and became 161,439 heads," the institute said.
Official data showed that the total number of ovine animals rose by 7.2 percent over the same period, reaching 44.3 million heads, including nearly 33.7 million sheep and 10.6 million goats.
The figures also revealed that there were over 0.3 million heads of donkey, horses, mules, camels, and pigs in Turkey as of end of 2017.
Meanwhile, the country produced 20.7 million tons milk, up 12 percent year-on-year, and 114,471 tons honey with an annual hike of 8.3 percent. Turkey's exports of dairy products, birds eggs, natural honey amounted to over $700 million while imports stood at around $120 million in 2017.
As noted in the report, the number of poultry animals -- chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese -- stood at nearly 350 million heads, rising 4.4 percent from the end of 2016.
Some 221 million heads of broiler hen and 121 million heads of laying hen were counted under chickens, which constitutes 98.5 percent of all poultry animals in Turkey.
TurkStat releases animal production statistics twice a year. The data are collected through province and district directorates of Turkey's Food, Agriculture and Livestock Ministry.
In the recent months, the country has been debating the overseas meat purchases issue due to the rising prices in the domestic markets.
Last month, speaking at Anadolu Agency Editors' Desk, the country's Food, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Ahmet Esref Fakibaba said: "I don't want to give a timeframe, however, Turkey won't import meat for sure; I believe that we will be one of the countries that export meat."
In 2017, Turkey's live animal exports stood at nearly $35 million, while the country imported $1.2 billion worth of live animals, compared to the previous year's imports amounting to $600 million and exports worth around $30 million.
The share of the sub-group "agriculture, forestry and fishing" in the country's 9-month gross domestic product last year was nearly 6 percent, with around 136.8 billion Turkish liras ($38 billion).
In 2016, all economic activities for agriculture, forestry, and fishing, which also include raising livestock, had a 6.2 percent share in the nation's economy, totaling nearly 161.3 billion Turkish liras (around $53.4 billion).
The average U.S. dollar/Turkish lira exchange rate in the first three quarters of 2017 was 3.60, while one dollar traded for 3.03 lira on average in 2016.