Stakeholders urge Govt to urgently intervene in Del Monte land tussle

The national government has been urged to protect Del Monte fruit growing and processing company from possible extinction as a result of dwindling farm land.

Trade unionists, members of Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and the company management raised concerns about the same while signing the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Del Monte Ltd, Kenya Union of Commercial Food and Allied Workers (KUCFAW) and Kenya Plantation and Allied Workers Union (KPAWU).

The company’s outgoing Managing Director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas said the firm has already ceded 1400 acres and 700 acres to Murang’a and Kiambu counties respectively.

“The government should expedite renewal of the company’s land lease,” he said, noting further that the firm will ensure the implementation of the CBA and that workers at the giant firm will have a 9 percent pay rise.

“Workers who do not reside within the company’s  premises will have a housing allowance ranging between Ksh 2,600 to Ksh5,350,” he said.

Gkaliamoutsas divulged that the company generates Ksh10 billion for the country in foreign exchange annually.

 “In our endeavour to contribute to the country’s social economic growth, we pay Ksh2.7 billion in salaries and purchase raw materials and equipment worth Ksh 4 billion locally per year. We also pay taxes worth Ksh1.4 billion annually,” he said.

Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) board member Boniface Kavuvi noted with concern that if shove comes to push, thousands of workers directly or indirectly employed by Del Monte will be rendered jobless.

The company has employed 6,500 workers directly and another 28,000 indirectly employed.

KPAWU Deputy Secretary General Thomas Kipkemboi said the country stands to lose heavily should Del Monte go under.

He observed that the firm earns the country billions of shillings in foreign exchange which is vital for the country’s economic growth and stability.

Robert Muthanga of FKE pointed out that Del Monte company has contributed immensely to the growth of towns in Kiambu and Murang’a counties hence the death of the company would lead to the collapse of these towns.

Early last month, President William Ruto directed that the dispute surrounding Del Monte land be settled by October to allow construction of an Exports Processing Zone (EPZ), an industrial park, a modern hospital and an aggregation centre.

Murang’a and Kiambu Counties as well as Kandara Residents Association have been tussling over the land with all parties seeking allocation of part of the 23000-acre land held by the company.

By Kamau Njoroge

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