Turkey has launched an investigation into Italian company Ferrero on allegations of monopolizing the hazelnut market, Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday, citing a local official.
Ferrero employs more than 1,000 people in Turkey, where it has been sourcing hazelnuts across the agriculture-rich country’s Black Sea region for over three decades.
But the company, Turkey’s top hazelnut buyer, especially for its world-famous Nutella spread, has angered Turkish farmers.
They accuse Ferrero of paying meager sums to them for hazelnuts and then selling its products at significantly higher prices.
“We started our legal process with the competition authority in September against Italian company Ferrero, which is trying to monopolize the hazelnut industry,” Hilmi Güler, mayor of the Black Sea province of Ordu, whose economy is mostly based on revenue from hazelnuts, tweeted.
“An investigation has been launched due to the company’s actions at all levels, from production to purchasing, shelling and export,” he said.
In an interview with the Hürriyet newspaper in August, Güler vowed he would fight to protect Turkish farmers from exploitation.
“We cannot leave the hazelnut at the mercy of a few speculators. We are working to add a new dimension to this,” he said.
Last year, AFP reported from the Black Sea town of Akyazı, where farmers expressed anger at the Italian company.
In a statement to AFP at the time, Ferrero had said the company does not directly “own or manage farms in Turkey and does not source hazelnuts directly from farmers.”
It “procures the hazelnuts it needs for its products respecting free market regulations and based on market dynamics.”
Turkey is the world’s leading hazelnut producer, accounting for around 70 percent of the total world supply.
The global giant also produces Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Kinder chocolate eggs.