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World Turkey's hazelnut farmers fume at Nutella 'monopoly'

08:05  27 october  2021
08:05  27 october  2021 Source:   afp.com

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Akyazi ( Turkey ) (AFP). Kneeling from dawn till dusk, the Turkish farmers picking most of the hazelnuts going into Nutella spreads complain of exploitation and meagre pay, setting up a clash over labour rights. The little heart-shaped nut making Nutella such a guilty pleasure is a cherished commodity in Turkey , which accounts for 82 percent of global exports. But this love is not shared by Mehmet Sirin, a 25-year-old from Turkey ' s mostly Kurdish southeast who travels to lush northern valleys filled with hazelnut trees to make a living during harvest season.

Turkey became the planet’ s hazelnut capital through luck and government intervention. The Black Sea region has the ideal mix of loamy soil, sunshine and rain. Starting in the late 1930s, the Republican People’s Party encouraged local farmers to plant hazelnut trees, both to lift the local economy and A third of Turkey ’ s hazelnuts are bought by Ferrero, which uses them in its Nutella spread, made here in a factory in Villers-Écalles, France.Credit Charly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. The dayibasi often provide laborers with between-harvest loans that can result in a form of indentured

Kneeling from dawn till dusk, the Turkish farmers picking most of the hazelnuts going into Nutella spreads complain of exploitation and meagre pay, setting up a clash over labour rights.

Turkish hazelnut producer Aydin Simsek says Nutella has © Ozan KOSE Turkish hazelnut producer Aydin Simsek says Nutella has "a monopoly, they have a free hand"

The little heart-shaped nut making Nutella such a guilty pleasure is a cherished commodity in Turkey, which accounts for 82 percent of global exports.

But this love is not shared by Mehmet Sirin, a 25-year-old from Turkey's mostly Kurdish southeast who travels to lush northern valleys filled with hazelnut trees to make a living during harvest season.

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Segal reports, , “ Turkey ’ s Labor Code does not apply to agricultural businesses with fewer than 50 employees, so much of the policing of this crop falls to confectionery companies.” Without knowing what farms these companies are sourcing from, it’s impossible to fully investigate how much companies like Nestle, Godiva, and Nutella are directly implicated in an industry with such blatant humanitarian shortcomings.

Detailed List of Top 28 Turkish Hazelnut Exporters in Turkey . Turkey is the World's top producer You all know Nutella of Ferrero, the company who has its own hazelnut supplier companies in Turkey , is also the Turkey ’ s Hazelnut Exports: Besides being the biggest hazelnut producer in the world

Farmers get paid 12 euros a day collecting nuts off the ground and stuffing them into huge sacks they then lug on their backs © Ozan KOSE Farmers get paid 12 euros a day collecting nuts off the ground and stuffing them into huge sacks they then lug on their backs

"We work 12 hours a day. This is a demanding job," said Sirin, a hood protecting him from a cold drizzle covering the leafy ground where the hazelnuts hide after ripening and falling from the trees.

The hazelnuts that make Nutella such a guilty pleasure are a cherished commodity in Turkey © Ozan KOSE The hazelnuts that make Nutella such a guilty pleasure are a cherished commodity in Turkey

"The hazelnuts we pick go abroad and come back in the shape of Nutella. They make more profits than us. This is exploitation," he said in the Black Sea town of Akyazi.

The world-famous spread is made by Italy's Ferrero confectionary, Turkey's top hazelnut purchaser. The global giant's other sweets include Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Kinder chocolate eggs.

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A damning New York Times investigation sheds a light on Turkey ’ s exploitative hazelnut industry, compelling us to consider boycotting Nutella . In interviews with the Times, workers say they harvest and haul hazelnuts during 12-hour shifts, sometimes seven days a week; another farmer describes hauling 110-pound bags up mountains where the ground is so steep, “you can never just stand up straight.” While no two farms are the same, Fair Labor Association Richa Mittal told the Times that “in six years of monitoring, [they] have never found a single hazelnut farm in Turkey in which all decent

It is hoped the trees will bear 5,000 tonnes of hazelnuts (in shell) by 2020 for use in crowd favourites including Nutella and Ferrero Rocher. The millionth tree was planted on Wednesday near Narrandera in the Riverina on a property owned by confectionary company Ferrero Australia, which operates under subsidiary Agri Australis to grow the raw material for its products. Eventually the hazelnuts could be made into Nutella at the company' s factory at Lithgow, NSW, which employs 100 people. It is hoped the hazelnuts will end up in crowd favourites Nutella and Ferrero Rocher. (ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery).

The Italian makers of Nutella have developed ill will from hazelnut farmers in Turkey, which accounts for 82 percent of global exports © Ozan KOSE The Italian makers of Nutella have developed ill will from hazelnut farmers in Turkey, which accounts for 82 percent of global exports

But the Italian company is developing ill will in Turkey, where farmers get paid roughly 12 euros ($14) a day collecting nuts off the ground and stuffing them into huge sacks they then lug on their backs.

"They have a monopoly, they have a free hand," said Aydin Simsek, 43, a local producer watching his dozen or so workers pick nuts out of the corner of his eye. 

"You see our conditions, how hard we work," he said, explaining that the price he gets for a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of hazelnuts has dropped to 22.5 liras ($2.30).

"This year, I will not sell my hazelnuts to Ferrero," he said. 

- 'Market dynamics' -

Ferrero has six facilities and employs more than 1,000 people in Turkey, where it has been sourcing hazelnuts across the agriculture-rich country's northern Black Sea regions for the past 35 years.

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Big business, small farmers . Turkey ’ s 600k hazelnut farms are so small (just 4 acres on average) that they hire minimum-wage earning migrant workers — including thousands of Syrian refugees without work permits or legal protections. Since Turkey ’ s Labor Code doesn’t apply to farms with fewer than Turkey ’ s hazelnut crop brings in .8B each year, but little of that cash ends up with all the laborers working their nuts off. Instead, it ends up with dayibasis — and big candy companies. Ferrero Rocher — the Italian confectioner that makes Nutella — buys ⅓ of Turkey ’ s hazelnuts (if you’re keeping score

Unfortunately, Nutella has run into some issues getting hazelnuts from Turkey lately. Turkey has had multiple harsh winters in a row, dramatically decreasing the amount of hazelnuts the country has exported. The farmers take out the white pulp and seeds, and separate the seeds from the pulps to be fermented. The cocoa seeds are placed in piles and are wrapped in banana leaves, and are left to ferment for two to eight days. During these days, the seeds reach temperatures of up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit, and the bitterness of the seeds is broken down by acids and enzymes.

In 2014, it acquired Turkey's Oltan Group -- a local market leader that procures, processes and sells nuts.

A Ferrero spokesman told AFP that the Italian company does not directly "own or manage farms in Turkey and does not source hazelnuts directly from farmers".

It "procures the hazelnuts it needs for its products respecting free market regulations and based on market dynamics," the Ferrero spokesman said.

This argument leaves the Turkish farmers unimpressed.

"For God's sake, they buy hazelnuts for 22 to 23 liras a kilo and sell them for 23 dollars," the Turkish Chambers of Agriculture's Istanbul branch president Omer Demir fumed.

"Turkey exports about 300,000 tonnes of hazelnut to the world. How strange that only foreign companies earn profits from this business," he said with bitter irony.

Demir said Ferrero and other global companies sourcing Turkey's hazelnuts provide tools and fertilisers for the farmers, paying for their harvests in advance.

They "are running their own show", Demir said, calling on Turkey's competition authority to intervene. 

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"Otherwise, they will control everything everywhere and we will come to a point where we cannot sell our product to anyone else but them," Demir said. 

- 'I needed the cash'-

Producer Cabbar Saka already feels like he has no choice, selling his entire month's harvest to traders working on behalf of the Italian company.

"I needed the cash because my daughter was getting married," Saka said. 

"Producers are scared of speaking out against Ferrero," said Sener Bayraktar, who heads Akyazi's chamber of agriculture.

"They fear that if they speak out, they will no longer be able sell their hazelnuts."

For a solution, Bayraktar wants the Turkish Grain Board -- a state regulator that oversees pricing, storage and payments -- to raise its quotas so that producers can sell more nuts, diversifying their client base.

The Turkish government has said it is ready to help, raising local hopes.

In Akyazi, where farmers dry their harvest on tarpaulins spread across their front yards, producer Simsek said he wants to break his dependence on the Italians as soon as he can.

"Had Nutella been buying our hazelnuts on fair terms, if it didn't oppress us, we would be proud and eat it ourselves," he said. 

"But the way they operate, we can't stomach Nutella anymore."

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