Kenya’s food processing company Delmonte Kenya Limited returned to court this week in the fight for prime land in Thika. The company owns thousands of acres in Kiambu County but a lobby group says they illegally grabbed the land and should be returned to their rightful owners.
The lobby group accuses Delmonte Kenya Limited and the County Government of Kiambu of transferring public land to a private company called Ananas Holdings Limited. Because the lease is expiring within the next two years, the lobby group wants the land set aside for public utilities and to be held in trust by both Kiambu and Murang’a County governments, as per the National Land Commission (NLC) of February 7, 2019.
“It is not in doubt that the National Land Commission is empowered to look at historical injustices and make a recommendation and that it is on the basis of the said determination that the suit was filed,” said justice Gacheru.
Delmonte Kenya had argued that the lawsuit has an objective of undoing historical injustices that occurred during the colonial times, and hence should be dismissed as it is time-barred.
But in her ruling, Justice Gacheru said that there is no evidence that the lawsuit is based on the said historical grievances and hence it was not time-barred. However, the judge ordered the lobby group to saw through a representative and asked the group to remove their names from the court papers.
The lobby group are particularly concerned about Delmonte Kenya’s dealings with Ananas Holdings Limited that has been subdividing and selling the land it got from the former since 2010. The group fears that once Delmonte Kenya Limited transfers land to Anana Holdings and the latter sells that land, it will be difficult to recover the land as the sale complicates the matters further.
Delmonte Kenya Limited: Company Profile
Delmonte Kenya Limited is a subsidiary of American company Fresh Delmonte Produce Limited. The company was started in 1965 and has its headquarters in Thika, Kiambu County. The company employs more than 6,000 employees and generates more than Ksh. 4.5 billion annually.
On average, Delmonte Kenya Limited processes 1,500 tonnes of pineapples per day. Since the company operates exclusively in Kenya, the high processing capacity has enabled Kenya to be among the top five exporters of canned pineapples in the world.