The UTZ hazelnut program launched in 2014 and in a short period it has more than tripled in size, counting some of the largest global buyers of hazelnuts as members. While there is still a long way to go, we’ve learned a lot in the first years and developed many strong partnerships that enable us to keep making progress towards a more sustainable hazelnut sector. As we move forward, we take a look at the challenges we’re addressing, what we’ve done so far and where we’re headed.
Challenges facing the hazelnut sector
60% of the world’s hazelnuts are produced in Turkey. Each year, approximately 460,000 tons of hazelnuts are grown on around 690,000 hectares of land in the Black Sea region of the country. Despite the large scale of the industry in Turkey, it faces many challenges related to improving productivity and social issues. The industry is heavily reliant on migrant workers who oftentimes live and work in substandard conditions and there is the risk of child labor, while sub-optimum agricultural practices hinder yields. By teaching better farming practices and implementing protocols that address child labor and other social concerns, the UTZ program, together with its partners, is making progress on improving these issues.
Where we are now
The program began in 2014 with four key founding members, Rewe, Natra, Migros, and Jumbo, and as of the end of 2017 the program has over 50 market members including Ferrero – the largest global buyer of hazelnuts. Over the course of four years we have gained 16 certificate holders – mostly exporters – in Turkey and one in Georgia, that have invested in over 100 staff members who provide training to more than 4.200 farmers. And we see more and more UTZ certified hazelnut products hitting the shelves in the supermarkets.
With our partners we have been making great steps in moving the hazelnut sector towards a more sustainable future.
Lots of valuable knowledge and information has been spread through the UTZ program trainings. The program provided trainings in good agricultural and harvest practices, and key social issues.
Improved collaboration between exporters and farmers
UTZ certification has helped bring exporters and farmers closer together, providing farmers with more technical assistance and giving exporters a greater understanding of farm sizes, number of workers needed and expected yields.
Improved relationships with the sector
Since the start of the program, UTZ and our founding members, have built stronger connections with the Turkish national and local government. Through multi-stakeholder meetings, the UTZ program has enabled exporters, sustainability staff and NGOs to meet to discuss challenges and share recommendations.
UTZ internal inspections, together with digital tools, have provided greater insight into yield estimations. These insights have in turn allowed for more tailored support to farmers from technical assistants and agricultural engineers.
Greater market access
With big market players like Ferrero, Jumbo, Migros and others on board as UTZ certificate holders, this high-level recognition has created new incentives for more sustainable practices to enter the hazelnut market.
Through setting up the program, the training and the multi-stakeholder approach, greater awareness has already been raised amongst actors in the sector about social issues like child labor and housing conditions. At the multi-stakeholder round table we hosted with the Fair Labor Association in March 2017, NGOs, exporters and farmers looked at these issues together and came out of it with a greater resolve to address them rather than to ignore or hide them.
Together with our partners we have invested heavily in ensuring that needed structures to make the program a success are in place. An additional hazelnut module has been developed to be used in combination with the existing UTZ Code of Conduct. And we trained 9 certification bodies trained to perform the audits.
More information can be found in the complete Hazelnut Program Overview.
Moving forward, we continue to look for ways to contribute to sector-wide change, driving improvement in the conditions for the migrant workforce, and improving productivity on the farms. As we look to the next phase of the program, we hope to build on the foundations of the first four years. We will continue to build the market demand and test different approaches that can be scaled up to have a lasting impact on the sustainability of the hazelnut sector in Turkey.