The Mistreatment of Hazelnut Workers in Turkey

We’ve known for a long time that Nutella contains palm oil, a very problematic ingredient. David Segal’s recent article in The New York Times on hazelnut farms in Turkey has opened our eyes to further issues with Nutella; this time surrounding the mistreatment of workers who harvest the hazelnuts used to make Nutella and other popular products.

 “About 70 percent of all hazelnuts come from Turkey” but from small farms with an average size of just “four acres.” Because “the rugged terrain makes it nearly impossible to mechanize the harvest,” a tremendous amount of labor (often dangerous) is needed for the two harvesting tasks: “collectors grab and bag nuts, while the haulers transport the bags, each about 110 pounds, up and down mountains and onto trucks.” 

A growing number of Syrian refugees make up this workforce, partially because, as Segal says:

“Few work permits are granted to this group, and agriculture is one of the few sectors where work permits are not required.” Richa Mittal, who works for the Fair Labor Association, issued a very strong statement about the conditions on these farms:  “In six years of monitoring, we have never found a single hazelnut farm in Turkey in which all decent work principle standards are met…Across the board. Not one.”

Segal describes the “conundrum” that big chocolate companies like Ferrero (which makes Nutella) are faced with:

“While other countries have tried to bolster their hazelnut production, Turkey remains the mother lode, and it is impossible to satisfy international demand without buying heavily here. But buying hazelnuts in Turkey means supporting a crop with glaring humanitarian flaws.”

Thus, at the end of the day, Ferrero “buys one-third of Turkey’s hazelnuts.” A 2017 survey that Nestlé published about its supply chain found “more than 72 percent of workers…had barely enough money to get by [and] ninety-nine percent…worked seven days a week.”

We at Gustiamo were deeply saddened to learn about the mistreatment of these seasonal workers and hope that spreading awareness can be a start toward positive change.