UPDATE 1-Turkey plans to produce 100 tonnes of gold annually in 5 yrs -minister

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ISTANBUL, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Turkey aims to increase its domestic gold production to 100 tonnes a year or more in the next five years, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Monday.

In an interview with broadcaster Bloomberg HT, Donmez said Turkey had produced 42 tonnes of gold in 2020, a record high, and it would produce more in 2021.

“The real aim is to increase production to 100 tonnes or more in the next five years,” he said, adding Turkey aimed to be among some 10 countries that produce more than 100 tonnes of gold per year.

Turkey imported $26.6 billion worth of gold in 2020, around double that of a year earlier, out of the country’s total imports worth some $219.43 billion, based on official data.

Turks have flocked to hard currencies and gold in recent years, especially since the lira’s sharp decline last autumn, pushing their non-lira holdings to a record high near $236 billion this month, central bank data showed.

“Our gold imports are really high. Not all of this is used in the jewellery sector, but also as a valuation tool,” he said.

“To decrease imports, we need to ensure this increase (in production) so that we don’t contribute negatively to the current account deficit,” Donmez said.

He had said earlier this month that Turkey has 18 operational gold mines and that 20 more are close to beginning production.

Separately, Donmez said Turkey aimed to begin operations in the electricity forward market in June and also wanted to begin forward operations in the natural gas market in 1 to 1-1/2 years. (Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen Editing by Dominic Evans and Jane Merriman)