In the five years since UTZ (now the Rainforest Alliance) launched its hazelnut program, labor conditions and farming methods have improved.
Chocolate bars with hazelnuts are among the best-selling chocolate confections in the world—but unfortunately for those who produce these tasty nuts, working conditions and yields are not always the best. Due to having a short harvest season, hazelnuts are often picked by migrant workers who are vulnerable to labor problems. Furthermore, because of the short growing season and small size of typical hazelnut orchards, many farmers are too busy with other income-producing activities to invest time and energy improving their hazelnut-farming practices.
In the five years since UTZ (now the Rainforest Alliance) launched its hazelnut program, however, it has grown from a modest 1,014 farmers and four market members to 7,390 farmers and 100 market members. The program expanded from Turkey (the world’s largest producer of hazelnuts) to Georgia, Spain, Azerbaijan, Italy, and elsewhere. Now 80 percent of the world’s biggest hazelnut exporters are a part of the UTZ program.
Most importantly, since its inception the program has made quantifiable progress on child labor, farming practices, and working conditions for hazelnut farmers. With sales of certified hazelnuts having quadrupled this year (from the prior year), and the volume of certified hazelnuts expected to double next year, it seems likely more lives and livelihoods of hazelnut producers will improve in the near future.