UTZ has come a long way since it was launched in 2002. In fact, we are already the biggest certification program in the world for sustainable cocoa and coffee! We recently started working towards a sustainable hazelnut sector as well. Why hazelnuts? And how do we plan to make a difference? Our program manager for hazelnut, Leonie Haakshorst explains.
(updated August 10, 2018)
More than 60% of the world’s hazelnuts come from Turkey, where they are mostly grown in small orchards along the Black Sea coast. Unfortunately, this is a sector that has for a long time struggled with child labor and poor conditions for migrant workers. Each year whole families travel through Turkey and work on the hazelnut harvest, bringing their children with them. These families are often Kurdish people or foreign migrant workers from Georgia.
In addition, there are problems with low productivity as many of the hazelnut orchards are very old.
Most of the hazelnuts are sourced by European confectionary companies. These companies have already made big strides towards sustainability, with many of them committed to sourcing 100% UTZ certified cocoa. We heard from these companies that they wanted to increase their sustainability and source responsible hazelnuts.
UTZ fills the gap
And so the UTZ hazelnut program was born! We have the experience and the network to connect the field and the market. Four founding members – Migros/Delica, Natra, REWE Group and Jumbo supermarkets – launched the program in 2014.
We developed a standard for sustainable hazelnut farming, drawing on the expertise of farmers, the industry, governments and NGOs. Like all UTZ programs, the standard covers good agricultural practices, farm management, environmental and social criteria, with some specific additional requirements related to hazelnuts. For example, hazelnut orchards in Turkey are on average 80-100 years old, so productivity is low. The UTZ program is supporting farmers in the timing and method of pruning, to ensure the trees produce the biggest possible yield.
For hazelnuts in particular the focus is on preventing child labor. Of course child labor is prohibited on UTZ certified farms, but this is not enough by itself as it can mean children simply work elsewhere. Therefore we are reaching out to other local and international NGOs, and supporting farmers and farmer groups in their efforts to provide education and day care facilities for children.
Now more than 6,500 farmers and 94 supply chain actors like brands and retailers have joined the program. In 2016, the first hazelnuts produced by UTZ certified farmers have been traced through the supply chain from the farm to the supermarket shelf – a great achievement, and one that we are building on in collaboration with our partners.