Since our hazelnut program launched in 2014, visiting Turkey during the yearly hazelnut harvest has become something like an UTZ tradition. This year our PR Manager Europe, Daria Koreniushkina, went on the trip together with other team members to give us an update on what’s happening in the field. Here she shares the highlights of their journey and what she learned about the status of the youngest UTZ program.

Daria Koreniushkina in Turkey

Daria Koreniushkina in Turkey

Day 1 — Schools for children

We are in the heart of the hazelnut growing region in Turkey. While I’m doing some last minute preparations for the coming days, my colleagues hit the road with Yavuz. This major hazelnut exporter and manufacturer is one of our partners in the region. Together they visit a summer school Yavuz set up for children of hazelnut farmers in Alapli. My colleague Leonie Haakhorst, Program Manager Hazelnut at UTZ, is impressed by what she has seen:

“The school building is conveniently situated next to a tent camp that the migrant workers set up to live during harvest season. It looks well prepared. The books just came in and the headmaster was already at the scene, preparing for welcoming the children the next day.”

Day 2 — Meeting with farmers in the fields

Today we are on the road with Şenocak, a hazelnut exporter in Turkey. Besides owning their own processing facility they also train farmers on how to follow the UTZ Code of Conduct. Our first stop is their processing facility near the city of Ordu. Here we meet their Quality Manager Ozgur Genc. She explains that our program has encouraged them to connect more with farmers, better identify risks and tackle them directly.

Our second stop is one of the farms in Ordu area where Şenocak buys hazelnuts from.

Sign at Senocak hazelnut farm with rules for agricultural practices

Sign at Senocak hazelnut farm with rules for agricultural practices.

Hamza Furtun, an UTZ farmer since 2017, tells us that the training provided by Şenocak are very important for him:

I want to be a better farmer and follow the best practices for both soil and people.

He has started implementing weed management and better pruning and fertilizing methods. As a result of this and better weather conditions, he has already seen increased quality and yields — from 2 tons last year to an estimated 6 tons this year.  When talking about his workers, he tells us that he only works with locals whom he knows personally and that men and women receive equal salaries. He also mentions that he is strict about ensuring there is no child labor on his farm.

Daria in conversation with hazelnut farmer Sabahattin Ilgun

Daria in conversation with hazelnut farmer Sabahattin Ilgun

At the second farm, we meet another farmer named Sabahattin Ilgun. He shows us the workers’ house which he rebuilt to meet UTZ standards. The new house has two rooms, a shower with hot water, kitchen and electricity. Previously the old house was much less comfortable and there was no shower for the workers. Walking through the orchard, we run into two migrant workers who travel from the south-east of Turkey every year for the harvest. They tell us they are satisfied with the new accommodation.

Day 3 — Certificate holders share their insights

It is day three and we are at the UTZ Certificate Holder Meeting. This meeting brings together all of UTZ hazelnut certificate holders in the region to give an update on developments and ensure everyone is on the same page. The updates show us that we are on the right track and that more work needs to be done. Osman Tekinarslan, our country representative for Turkey, explains that most hazelnut exporters in Turkey are already a part of the UTZ program and have been investing heavily in implementing the standard and scaling up the program. He highlights that in 2016 the number of UTZ certified hazelnut farmers almost doubled.

Hazelnut certificate holders meeting Turkey 2017

Hazelnut certificate holders and UTZ team

Next, we hear from certificate holders that although many farms are seeing an increase in demand for UTZ certified hazelnuts, right now, the UTZ hazelnut supply is still much higher than demand. On the issue of child labor, we hear that generally farmers do not want to work with children as it is against the law and the quality of their work is lower, but sometimes it is hard for farmers to avoid it if a family insists and the farmer needs workers urgently. Our team takes a note of these challenges to address them as we move forward.

Day 4 — Transparency philosophy of a hazelnut processor

It’s our last day and a visit to the modern processing facility of Noor is on deck. Noor is in Banner child labor protection project in hazelnutthe process of becoming an UTZ member in the hazelnut program. Duygu Özel, Quality Control and Assurance manager, explains why they want to join the UTZ hazelnut program:

UTZ fits our transparency philosophy. With UTZ we can achieve better traceability and transparency as well as satisfy demand for more responsibly produced hazelnuts which we see from some of our customers.

Unfortunately there are still many sustainability challenges in the hazelnut sector, especially when it comes to working conditions for internal migrant workers, child labor and productivity. Sustainability is a journey and systemic change takes time. That’s why I was happy to see steps in the right direction on this trip and meet so many people who are eager to work together towards the common goal of making sustainability the norm in the hazelnut sector.

Is your company ready to take a step forward and source sustainably? Join the UTZ hazelnut program today!