- Del Monte is entangled in a protracted land dispute with Kiambu and Murang’a county governments and Kandara Residents Association.
- MP says thousands of jobs are at risk if the firm’s land lease renewal impasse is not solved.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has been urged to fast-track renewal of the land lease for multinational fruit processor Del Monte in Thika.
Thika Town MP Patrick Wainaina said the firm was facing imminent closure should the government fail to renew its 99-year land lease which expires in 2022.
Del Monte is entangled in a protracted land dispute with Kiambu and Murang’a county governments and Kandara Residents Association, a squatters’ group that lays claim to the firm’s land.
Wainaina spoke in Thika town while disbursing Uwezo Fund cheques worth Sh4.8 million to 45 groups.
He said thousands of jobs were at risk if the firm’s land lease renewal impasse was not solved.
He reiterated his statement in Parliament last month that 6,500 direct and 28,000 indirect jobs would be lost if the company closed.
“Failing to renew Del Monte’s land will have devastating effects to Kenyans and the country’s economy. Thousands of jobs will be lost at a time Kenyans are grappling with unemployment. I’m urging the President to intervene and save the company from closure,” Wainaina said.
The legislator said Kenya stood to lose Sh10 billion income including Sh7.5 billion for suppliers.
The MP opposed the land being surrendered to Murang'a and Kiambu counties.
“This is zero hour for Del Monte. The national government must rise above the county governments and ignore their short-term greed and illogical demands. I don't know what magic these counties will perform on this land which they haven't done on land already bestowed on them,” Wainaina said.
“The cost of Del Monte leaving Kenya is just too high and the national government can't leave it to county governments to deal with this. They are messing up big time.”
He said Del Monte started investing in fruit farming and processing in Mexico and they might close business in Kenya should the government fail to renew their land lease.
"Letting go of Del Monte would also be a big blow to President Uhuru's agenda on industrialisation. Government officials delaying the lease renewal should know that they are acting against the industrialisation objective of this country," he said.
The MP said plans to resurvey Del Monte land were in top gear.
In November last year, the National Assembly Lands Committee led by Rachael Nyamai (Kitui South MP) told the Lands Ministry through the National Lands Commission (NLC) to resurvey the land held by Del Monte in Murang’a and Kiambu.
The committee recommended that the director of survey and the Ministry of Lands resurvey the land and give a report within three months. But the land is yet to be resurveyed seven months down the line.
Parliament also ordered NLC to investigate the circumstances under which the company allegedly acquired four parcels of land - LR No. 10862, 10741, 11312 and 11146 measuring 7,400 acres.
The four parcels are said to have been surrendered to the government after dissolution of two companies trading as Sassa Coffee and Rappit B Limited, which reportedly owned them.
The committee made the recommendations after a petition filed by Kandara Residents Association through their patron Philip Kamau who had asked Parliament to investigate what he termed as irregular renewal of leases of land to the company.
The association which represents 5,000 squatters including victims of historical injustices from Murang'a and Kiambu counties is demanding a large chunk of land from the multinational fruit processor which they claim had occupied government land illegally.
NLC in a gazette notice dated March 1, 2019 said 70 per cent of any excess land ceded by Del Monte should be given to members of the community and 30 per cent to the county governments.
Del Monte managing director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas late last year said that they have 22,000 acres in Murang’a and Kiambu counties in nine blocks with all ownership documents.
Edited by Henry Makori