Kenya stands to lose Sh10 billion in foreign exchange annually and 7,000 people lose their jobs if multinational fruit processor Del Monte’s land lease is not renewed.
Another 28,000 people will be affected indirectly if the company closes business in 2022 after its 99-year’s land lease lapses.
Thika MP Patrick Wainaina said most of the company’s workers are from his constituency and them having to lose their jobs would turn Thika into a ghost town.
Speaking to journalists in Thika yesterday, the MP said it would be a huge loss to job creation and the government’s agriculture and manufacturing agenda.
“The national government must rise above the county governments and ignore their short-term greed and illogical demands. The cost of Del Monte leaving Kenya is just too high and should not be allowed,” said Wainaina.
The company has 22,000 acres of land in Kiambu and Murang’a Counties near Thika town.
He said should their land lease not be renewed; Del Monte has several other countries where they could reinvest.
He revealed that the company was working towards opening other investments of fruit farming and processing in Mexico.
“If they go to Mexico, it is us who are going to lose and there is nothing we can do to that land. You can’t even plant maize in that land. Even if you do those buildings that people are looking for nobody will rent them because Thika will be a ghost town,” he said.
He said plans were underway to resurvey the land as directed by the National Assembly Lands Committee led by Rachael Nyamai (Kitui South MP) in November last year. The process, he said, was halted after the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Should their lease be renewed, the company is open to give out huge chunks of unused land to the government for community use.
However, should the Company halt operations in the country, the Kiambu and Murang’a County governments and Kandara Residents Association, a squatters’ group are waiting on the side-lines to repossess the land.
They have opposed the renewal of Del Monte’s land lease saying their time in the country is up. Del Monte is known for farming and processing pineapples for export.