Syrian refugee women prepare food in a community house in Istanbul. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/CEM TURKEL
Syrian refugee women prepare food in a community house in Istanbul. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/CEM TURKEL

An investigation conducted by the New York Times has found that small Turkish firms harvesting hazelnuts for well-known brands such as Ferrero, Godiva, and Nestlè often illegally exploit Syrian refugees.

Hazelnut production for Nutella and other famous brands like Godiva and Nestle makes use of Syrian refugees in Turkey, often in conditions of vulnerability and lack of legal protection, reports the New York Times. 

An investigation by the newspaper found that Turkey accounts for 70 percent of hazelnut production in the world and that especially small firms use the labor of Syrians from across the border or minors. The workers are often exploited and paid as low as 10 dollars per day. 

Difficult to monitor work conditions 

The newspaper said that Ferrero buys one third of all Turkey's hazelnuts. The Alba-based group says that ''it oversees a multipronged effort to prohibit child labor and set wage and safety standards'' and that "Ferrero is dedicated to providing its people with safe and decent working conditions and we request that our independent farmers do the same.'' 

However, the Italian firm and other multinationals find it difficult to monitor working conditions in Turkey, especially because many of the local firms are independent and the Labor Code applies only to those with 50 or more employees. 

Ferrero committed to respecting rights 

Ferrero issued a statement after the article was published, saying that it welcomed the New York Times article, which it said showed the ''extreme complexity'' of the hazelnut production chain in Turkey. It noted that it deals with ''critical issues that have become systemic and that require a multistakeholder approach, which Ferrero is engaged in with bodies such as ILO, GIZ, and UTZ.''
 

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