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HomeWealthDel Monte Kenya: Ownership, Growth, Controversy, And Land Disputes

Del Monte Kenya: Ownership, Growth, Controversy, And Land Disputes

Del Monte Kenya, formerly known as Kenya Canners Limited, is a food processing company that specializes in the cultivation, production, and canning of pineapple products. It is located in Thika, Kiambu County.

The company has a rich history and has undergone various ownership changes over the years, as told by WoK.

Early History

Kenya Canners Limited was established in 1948 by a group of British and Kenyan investors.

The company’s primary focus was processing pineapples for both local consumption and export.

In 1965, Del Monte Corporation, a renowned US-based food company, acquired a 60% stake in Kenya Canners Limited, leading to the renaming of the company as Del Monte Kenya Limited.

Following the post-independence economic crisis, the government awarded Del Monte Kenya a land lease in a Thika farm that formerly belonged to Anglo-French Sisal company.

This strategic move allowed the company to cultivate its own pineapples and become more self-sufficient in its supply of raw materials.

Over the years, the company expanded its product line to include other fruits such as mangoes, oranges, and grapes. The company also began exporting its products to various countries in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

In 2002, an Italian food company called Cirio Alimentare acquired a 98% stake in Del Monte Kenya. Following this acquisition, the company changed its name to Cirio Del Monte Kenya Limited.

The remaining 2% of the company is owned by a group of small shareholders, including former employees, local farmers, and members of the Kenyan government.

Under the ownership of Cirio Alimentare, Del Monte Kenya continued to grow and became one of the largest food processing companies in Kenya.

Today, the company employs over 6,500 people and exports its products to over 80 countries worldwide. It exports an estimated 5000 containers of pineapples and pineapple products every year.

According to Business Daily, Del Monte’s pineapple sales in 2022 amounted to sh 82.1 billion. Its products are stocked at major supermarkets, mainly in Europe.

Controversies

In recent years, Del Monte Kenya has faced scrutiny from human rights groups and the media.

The company has been accused of human rights abuses, including the use of excessive force by security guards against villagers who trespassed on the plantation.

Earlier this year, The Guardian newspaper conducted a major investigation that exposed these allegations.

The investigation revealed incidents of beatings and killings of individuals suspected of trespassing on the company’s Thika plantation.

In response to the allegations, Tesco, Britain’s largest grocery retailer, stopped stocking the company’s products.

The company responded by expressing its commitment to investigating the claims thoroughly and stated that it takes the allegations’ extremely seriously’.

Land Disputes

Other than human rights violations, Del Monte Kenya has been the center of numerous land disputes between the multinational fruit processor and residents of Murang’a and Kiambu counties.

The residents claim that the company is occupying their land illegally, while Del Monte claims that it has a valid lease agreement with the government.

Earlier this year, KBC reported that the Kandara Residents Association, which represents over 5000 squatters from the two counties, was demanding the allocation of 7400 acres of Del Monte land.

A 2019 gazette notice issued by the National Lands Commission decreed that any land ceded by Del Monte be allocated to the residents and their respective county governments at a ratio of 70:30.

In 2020, former president Uhuru Kenyatta advocated for a win-win solution to be pursued to settle the dispute.