The Fair Labor Association commissioned this study to explore the relationship between the procurement price and working conditions in hazelnut production in Turkey (with a special focus on child labor and forced labor), and review different actors’ roles in the supply chain, as part of the project “Piloting the USDA Guidelines for Eliminating Child Labor and Forced Labor in the Hazelnut Supply Chain in Turkey”. The report is based on field research conducted in hazelnut production sites in the provinces of Düzce, Sakarya, and Ordu with farmers, seasonal agricultural workers, public officials, firm representatives, and civil society organizations.
The field research revealed that:
- Changing social and economic conditions and legal-institutional mechanisms related to productivity allot costs and profits unevenly among the actors in the hazelnut industry. Hazelnut garden owners’ and workers’ share in the total value created in the global hazelnut value chain is small compared to the share commanded by suppliers and international food companies. The unevenness puts heavy economic pressures on farmers and workers.
- Turkish seasonal agricultural workers’ incomes from the hazelnut harvest are below the poverty line. Wages are below the legal minimum, and overtime work is not remunerated. This study shows that workers’ monthly expenses are higher than their incomes, which leaves them in a debt cycle and deprives them of a healthy diet and decent living conditions. Low wages and indebtedness result in the commodification of household labor, including having children toil with their parents in return for a daily wage.
- Having calculated a living wage for seasonal migrant workers, the study argues that farmers would not be able to pay a living wage to the harvest workers at the current price of hazelnuts and the revenues they obtain from hazelnut sales.
- Factors such as weather conditions, the diminishing sizes of hazelnut gardens and insufficient care in cultivation result in price and productivity fluctuations, have a severe impact on farmers. The majority of hazelnut farmers are aging, small hold farmers who derive a significant share of their income from the hazelnut production. As labor is the most significant cost for them, the situation perpetuates low wages, long working hours, hard working conditions, and the continued use of child labor during the hazelnut harvest.
- Mechanization of hazelnut harvest can lower production costs and increase productivity. However, mechanization is directly related to productivity and revenues, and out of the reach of many farmers in the current circumstances.