Triple Bottom Tuesdays >>> Bitter or Sweet? Nutella's Intense Hazelnut Farming and What it Entails
Updated: Sep 14, 2021
Picture by: Chris Liverani
Ferrero International, the Italian company behind Nutella, has recently started shifting their hazelnut supply from importing, to homegrown. They have started intensive farming of hazelnuts in Italy as a part of their goal to monitor the quality of their supply chains more closely.
Even though the reasoning for their decision was with good intent for customers, this move has caused some backlash with local Italian farmers. Giacomo Andreocci is one of the farmers who feel like their traditional farming methods, and the history that their farms carry, are being threatened. The land around his farm in the municipality of Vignanello used to flourish with a diverse mix of plantation including olives and vines. But now many of the surrounding valleys have been converted into hazelnut farms by Ferrero, as they aim to increase production by 30% to 90,000 hectares by 2025 in Italy alone.
“Hazelnut cultivation has exploded massively, triggering such rapid change in the ecosystem around us that nature is no longer able to sustain it,” said Giacomo. “Hazelnut trees are now planted everywhere, and they are sucking up all our lands resources”.
Picture by: Erol Ahmed
Ferrero’s decision to make some of its nuts in Italy stems from calls by manufacturers to shorten supply chains, encourage local communities to grow and contribute to production and to increase monitoring of labour rights. “Consumers in general are becoming more aware about how their product is produced and where it comes from,” said Ishan Das from Freeworld Trading.
Environmentalists are also concerned about the environmental impact of Ferrero’s decision. They have highlighted that intensive farming can reduce underground aquifers and significantly decrease the natural plantation of those areas. Furthermore, developing monocultures will require greater use of pesticides and herbicides. Environmental researcher Goffredo Filibeck comments “the more we pursue this approach, the more we move towards a point of no return”.
Picture credit: Northwest Hazelnut Company
So, the debate is twofold. On one side this decision will help Ferrero reduce expenditure and waste because of fewer imports from Turkey (the biggest producer of hazelnuts) and simultaneously improve labour rights and have better working conditions for their farmers. However, on the other hand, it comes at a massive environmental cost as new farms will have to be created and sustained which is wasteful as the capacity and supply already exists. Local farmers will also have to fight just to keep their own crops alive.
Giacomo understands Ferrero’s decision, “From an economic point of view, right now [this] is the best thing there is. When a major company arrives, the local community focuses on a product that pays off. Jobs and wealth are created”. But Giacomo also understands that there are deeper consequences to this decision, one that will affect generations to come, commenting “But what do we leave to future generations? If we continue to plunder the land as we’re doing, there will be nothing left but desert”.
September 14th 2021 | 10:30 AM