Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

Major Australian supermarkets Woolworths, Coles and IGA have issued the producer of Nutella and Kinder a "please explain'" over allegations of child labour in the company's supply chain.

A report from the BBC revealed numerous hazelnut farms in Turkey are rife with child labour, with children as young as 10 working long days picking nuts on the country's mountainsides.

Turkey is the world's largest producer of hazelnuts, accounting for 75 per cent of global production. Confectionery giant Ferrero buys about one-third of them, with the nuts a key ingredient in its popular Nutella spread.

Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles, alongside supplier of independent IGA supermarkets Metcash, have raised questions over the allegations with Ferrero, which in Australia produces more than 11,000 tonnes of Nutella annually from its Lithgow factory in New South Wales.

No questions asked on child labour

According to the BBC report, in many of the 400,000-plus family-owned hazelnut farms in Turkey, farm owners accept child labour, with many workers from Kurdish migrant families earning as little as $13 each a day.

Is the system completely clean? I think no one can say that at this moment.

Fererro Hazelnut Company general manager Bamsi Akin

Nuts flow from farmers to independent nut traders, who purchase them by the sackful and sell them either to cracking factories or to direct exporters, such as Ferrero.

However, the BBC reports Ferrero does not ask traders or brokers about the nuts' provenance, with the sellers saying it's "impossible" for the chain to be monitored.

In an interview with the broadcaster, general manager of Ferrero Hazelnut Company in Turkey Bamsi Akin said the company was "not asking questions".

"We have the tools to monitor from a different perspective … Before the season started, we have talked to them [the traders], and we have demonstrated our social practice requirements," Mr Akin told the BBC.

"We are doing our role to improve social practices with trainings … But is the system completely clean? I think no one can say that at this moment."

Supermarkets raise concerns

Australia's major grocers each adhere to their own responsible sourcing policies, which require varying levels of commitment to ethical and sustainable practices from their suppliers.

In a statement, a Woolworths spokesperson said the company was aware of the BBC's report on Ferrero and had contacted the company for "further information on its response to the matter".

Similarly, a Metcash spokesperson said the wholesaler was committed to responsible sourcing and said it was "discussing these allegations directly with Ferrero".

A Coles spokesperson said it had also reached out to Ferrero regarding the claims, saying the company expected Ferrero to uphold Coles' ethical sourcing policy.

However, when asked if they would cease stocking Ferrero's products if the company's response was not satisfactory, the supermarkets either declined to comment or said it was too early to tell.

Ferrero has extensive corporate social responsibility programs, including a Farming Values Program it launched in 2012 to help farmers glean better nut yields from their crops. The program also includes training on workers rights and child labour.

However, just 10 per cent of Turkey's 400,000 farms participate in the program. The company has a goal of 100 per cent traceability of hazelnuts by 2020, but currently just 39 per cent of its hazelnuts are traceable.

In a statement, a Ferrero spokesperson said the company did not tolerate child labour "nor any form of slavery" and was determined to prevent and eliminate all child labour in its supply chains, though noted this required co-operation from numerous stakeholders.

"The complexity of the hazelnut supply chain means it cannot be transformed by one single actor, and co-operation is absolutely essential to tackling the issue of child labour," the spokesperson said.

The company completes regular audits of its hazelnut supply chain through third-party auditors, and also operates numerous programs with organisations in Turkey to attempt to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in hazelnut farming.

Article from: https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/australian-supermarkets-question-nutella-producer-over-child-labour-claims-20190924-p52u9s.html