Ekaterra multinational tea company on Tuesday, May 23, suspended operations in Kericho and Bomet counties following arson attacks resulting in the loss of property worth Ksh170 million.
Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) chair Silas Njibwakale confirmed that the company suspended the operations due to security concerns.
“We call upon President William Ruto to intervene in the matter of insecurity in the region which has led to the tea company suspending operations,” stated Njibwakale.
Jobs of about 16,000 employees of the multinational tea company were at risk since they were told not to report to work until further notice.
Njibwakale, therefore, urged the government to act swiftly in addressing security concerns, in an attempt to secure Kenyans' jobs.
The announcement was made a day after residents invaded two of Ekaterra estates in Kericho and torched a mechanical tea-plucking machine.
Preliminary police reports indicated that irate residents were protesting the use of tea-plucking machines in the tea farms. They argued that the machines had taken over their jobs.
Several people were injured during the Monday, May 22, incident as protestors engaged police in running battles.
The latest incident brings the number of tea-plucking machines that had been destroyed to 13.
KTGA officials argued that the tea industry plays a very key role in the country’s economy, calling for urgent measures to control the situation.
“These criminal activities not only endanger the lives of innocent Kenyans but also hinder business operations and slow down the tea industry's ability to thrive,” noted Njibwakale.
At the same time, KTGA announced other measures that include the reduction of operations in all other major large-scale tea farms in Nyamira and Nandi, in solidarity with Ekaterra company.
The go-slow in other tea companies will go on until government puts in place adequate security measures to safeguard tea factories in the country.
In October 2022, unknown people torched 10 two-man-held (TMH) tea harvesting machines at the Chebown tea estate owned by Ekaterra.
According to global market projections dated Friday, April 21, Kenya risk losing nearly Ksh138 billion in annual earnings from black tea exports after two major buyers reduced their demand
The reports indicated that Kenya's black tea exports dropped in the first two months of the 2023 first quarter, with Pakistan and Egypt reducing their demand for the product.
On the other hand, the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) on April 17, admitted to erroneously deducting more than Ksh1 billion from 600,000 farmers affiliated with the agency in March 2023.
Speaking to the media, KTDA chairman David Ichoho stated that the agency had started the process of refunding the funds deducted.
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