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30 Apr 2019

David Segal, New York Times

Turkey: Refugee Labor Abuses on Hazelnut Farms Used by Nestle, Nutella

 Like thousands of other Syrian refugees, Shakar Rudani worked last summer in Turkey’s Black Sea region, home to the largest concentration of hazelnut farms in the world. He arrived in August, expecting that he and his six sons, ages 18 to 24, would earn the equivalent of a few thousand dollars. He left in late September with little more than a firm resolution: to never return again.

The work was arduous and risky. Because the terrain is filled with steep inclines, his sons spent much of their time attached by ropes to rocks, a precaution against a potentially fatal fall. Worse, the pay was $10 a day, half the rate promised by the middleman who had pitched him the job.

About 70 percent of all hazelnuts come from Turkey, a bounty produced by some 600,000 tiny farms scattered throughout the verdant landscape that stretches along the country’s northern coast. Much of the harvest winds up in beloved confections like Nutella spread made by Ferrero, candy bars made by Nestlé and Godiva's chocolates made by a Turkish company, Yildiz.

Yet, few consumers know that behind each of these treats is a crop that has long been notorious for its hazards and hardships, as well as the prevalence of child labor, a scourge the government has been trying to combat for years.

(...) Giovanni Ferrero rarely grants interviews or allows media visits to the company’s headquarters in Alba, Italy. A spokeswoman answered questions by email, sending a list of organizations that Ferrero has teamed with to promote what it calls the Ferrero Farming Values program. “Ferrero is dedicated to providing its people with safe and decent working conditions,” she wrote in an email, “and we request that our independent farmers do the same.”  More than 72 percent of workers reported that they had barely enough money to get by. Ninety-nine percent said they worked seven days a week. Child labor issues, the company stated, have “deteriorated in the last year” because of the war in Syria. Nestlé declined to comment for this article.