The multinational tea company has temporarily suspended its operations due to recent incidents of violence, leading to property damage and safety concerns. Approximately 16,000 employees will not be reporting to work until the government and other stakeholders address the security situation.
James Finlays Tea Company, represented by Managing Director Simeon Hutchinson, Corporate Affairs Director Sammy Kirui, and Human Resources Director Daniel Kirui, has also experienced significant challenges amidst the region’s recent turmoil.
Ekaterra, a multinational tea company based in Kenya, has announced the suspension of operations in Kericho and Bomet counties. This decision comes after several cases of arson resulted in the loss of property valued at 170 million shillings.
Silas Njibwakale, chair of the Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA), confirmed that the company’s operations were temporarily halted due to security concerns.
The announcement followed an incident where local residents invaded two of Ekaterra’s estates in Kericho, setting fire to a mechanical tea-plucking machine.
To address the security situation, all 16,000 employees of the company will refrain from reporting to work until appropriate measures are implemented by the government and other stakeholders.
In a display of solidarity, major tea producers operating in Kericho, Bomet, Nyamira, and Nandi counties have also decided to scale down their operations until adequate security measures are in place.
Through the Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA), which represents both multinational and local private tea companies, an appeal has been made to President William Ruto to intervene and restore order in the region.
Silas Njibwakale, accompanied by Slyvia Ten Den, the Managing Director of Ekaterra Tea Company responsible for Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda, emphasized the urgency of the security situation.
“We implore President Ruto to intervene promptly, safeguard local and foreign investments, and prevent Kenya from losing its esteemed position in the international tea market,” stated Njibwakale.
He further highlighted the escalation of insecurity within the estates since October 2022, with incidents of theft and machinery damage, now culminating in organized attacks and deliberate destruction of crucial assets.
The association expressed concern over the burning of police vehicles, tea plucking machines, and tractors, as well as the injuries sustained by workers and law enforcement officials. These incidents not only endanger lives but also disrupt business operations for multiple companies involved.
James Finlays Tea Company, represented by Managing Director Simeon Hutchinson, Corporate Affairs Director Sammy Kirui, and Human Resources Director Daniel Kirui, has also been significantly affected by the ongoing unrest in the region.
“Despite our continuous engagement with district security teams, the Ministry of Home Affairs, local chiefs, and elders, the situation unfortunately continues to deteriorate,” added Njibwakale.
The association urged the highest levels of government and security agencies to take swift and decisive action to address the matter.
These developments occurred after residents of Brooke Estate in Kericho invaded the Kapgorech and Chagaik tea estates owned by Ekaterra Tea Estates. The protesters set fire to two self-propelled mechanical harvesters, seven mechanical hand-pickers, and a tractor.
During subsequent confrontations between the residents and the police, several officers sustained injuries. Kericho Governor Erick Mutai’s motorcade was also targeted with stone-throwing when he attempted to calm the situation.
Over the past two months, at least seven police officers have been seriously injured while dispersing residents who illegally picked green leaves from Ekaterra and James Finlay’s estates.