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More European chains suspend Kakuzi supplies over labour exploitation

Murang’a based agricultural firm, Kakuzi, continues to bear the brunt of human rights abuse by its security guards after two more large European supermarket chains, Sainsbury’s and Lidl, suspended their supplies.

UK’s Sainsbury’s and Germany’s discount grocer Lidl confirmed  that they will not accept any produce from Kakuzi until investigations into the allegations are carried out.

“At Lidl GB, we operate with a fundamental respect for the rights of the people we interact with, whether they be our own direct employees, contract workers or people employed throughout our supply chains, and are firmly opposed to all forms of labour exploitation,” Lidl said in statement.

The escalations come barely a week after Britain’s largest supermarket, Tesco dropped Kakuzi as its supplier of avocados pending investigations.

“Any form of human rights abuse in our supply chain is unacceptable. We have been working closely with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), alongside other ETI members, to investigate this issue and ensure measures have been taken to protect workers,” Tesco said.

Kakuzi claimed that it is engaging the victims and was optimistic of addressing all concerns raised by their major clients.

“Regarding the issue of suspended trading with a UK supermarket, we are specifically engaging with the Ethical Trading Initiative, with a view to addressing all the concerns. This is to be done through a mutually agreed process,” Kakuzi said.

Long suspension of orders by the foreign based retailers will have an adverse impacts on Kakuzi’s operations, their wide footprint and profit margins.

By March 9, 2019, Sainsbury had 1,428 grocery stores across Britain, 820 of which were convenience stores while Germany’s Lidl operates in 32 countries across the globe and offers food and non-food products in around 11,200 stores in 29 countries.

Tesco on the other hand runs 3,961 grocery stores and franchise stores in the UK and Ireland.

Kakuzi which is listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) has been accused of human rights abuses on its Kenyan plantations, exposing it to the risk of paying hefty fines and reparations to the victims.

The firm has been sued through its parent company, Camellia Plc over assault and sexual misconduct.

This is after 79 Kenyans launched claims in a London High Court against Camellia over human rights abuse by it’s security guards at the Kenyan subsidiary, Kakuzi.

Camellia owns a 50,07% stake in Kakuzi and employs 78,000 people across the globe.

Kakuzi is its largest avocado producer in Kenya, which according to the International Trade Centre is Africa’s biggest avocado exporter. Camellia also has its foot in Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania.

The allegations dating from 2009 to January this year, include rapes, attacks on local villagers and a man being beaten to death.

But Kakuzi has denied all the allegations saying it did not condone any criminal activities or behaviour by any of its employees.

“In the case of the tragic death of the young man highlighted in the article the matter was reported to the relevant authorities and investigations are ongoing. Kakuzi has settled with the deceased’s legal representatives as appointed by the Kenyan courts on the civil matter,” Kakuzi said in a statement.

The agricultural firm said it had called in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to probe the matter and act in accordance with the law.

 


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