Reeta Paakkinen
ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News

Turkish building materials producers predict there will be increased activity in the construction sectors in the Middle East and North Africa, contributing to a growth in business for Turkish firms.
Turkey's accession process to the European Union is improving standards in the industry and doing away with unjust competition, Selda Başbuğoğlu, secretary general of the Association of Turkish Building Material Producers, or İMSAD, told the Turkish Daily News yesterday.

Domestic, regional dynamics
The Turkish building materials sector experienced impressive growth of 45 percent in 2006. Last year, however, the sector recorded growth of only 5 percent. In 2007, the sector made up around 11 percent of the gross national product of Turkey.
Başbuğoğlu noted that, regardless of increasing raw material prices, domestic and regional dynamics would guarantee the future growth of the sector. �There is a serious need for new apartments and improved infrastructure in Turkey, where around 60 percent of all buildings are not registered,� Başbuğoğlu said. �Annual need for new apartments is estimated at 450,000 units. The young demographics of Turkey mean the need for new housing will continue for years to come.�
She added that Turkey's location is also a factor that will help growth in the sector. �In the next 20 years, construction activity in the world will grow most in North Africa and the Middle East. Turkey can play an important role in this growth because of its location and become a center of construction materials production.�
Başbuğoğlu also noted that although the local construction sector is talking about an economic slowdown, the development is not evident among industries in Turkey. �There is still notable demand and foreign investors are still interested in the market,� she said.

EU brings standardization
Turkey's accession process to the EU is improving standards in the industry and helping the sector to fight counterfeit products, noted Başbuğoğlu.
İMSAD has been a member of Council of European Producers of Materials for Construction, orCEPMC,since 2003 and recently also launched the EUBuild project together with Bulgaria and Romania, an undertaking which assists the construction industries in the three countries to adapt to EU standards and directives and share information.
�Perhaps the biggest advantage of the EU accession process for industry is that the market will get rid of counterfeit products, both in the domestic market and in terms of exports,� said Başbuğoğlu. İMSAD members have earlier come across counterfeit sanitary fixtures and ceramic tile products from China and the far east that on closer inspection did not fulfill the CE standards, Başbuğoğlu added. �We expect EU accession to strengthen standards in the sector,� she said.

Environmental trend
The Turkish building materials sector consists of over 6,500 companies and 150 subsectors, and contributes 7 percent to total employment in Turkey. At present, Turkey is the largest producer of cement in Europe and the third largest producer of iron, steel and ceramics in Europe.
�Insulation materials are an industry that will experience notable growth in the future. This is because energy efficiency and environmental issues are gaining more importance on the global agenda,� concluded Başbuğoğlu.