Ekaterra Tea Kenya PLC has suspended its operations following the recent protests and looting by suspected criminal groups at their tea estates in Kericho and Bomet counties that led to the loss of property valued at Sh120 million.
The large-scale tea producers have decried the increasing insecurity plaguing Kericho, Bomet, Nyamira, and Nandi counties, where violent confrontations between armed groups and security personnel have been witnessed, leading to injuries and impeding the tea industry’s ability to thrive.
In a press briefing at the ITC Center Ekaterra Tea PLC in Kericho County, the Chairman of the Kenya Tea Growers Association, Mr. Silas Njibwakale, said following violent protests, the large-scale tea producers lost tea harvesting machines worth approximately Sh50 million and an additional Sh120 million in 4.5 million kilos of green leaf.
“What began as a daytime raid and theft of tea leaves and machinery in October 2022 has now escalated into organized assaults of business premises and deliberate destruction of crucial assets, and these criminal activities and breakdown of law and order have severely disrupted business operations, hampering the growth of the tea industries,” said Njibwakale.
He further said that the safety of their people is of paramount importance to them, and that is why they have suspended their operations until the law enforcement agencies confirm their safety and they can resume normal activities.
“Large-scale tea producers will therefore reduce operations until adequate security measures are guaranteed,” stressed Njibwakale.
He, however, noted that suspension of the operations will drastically affect Kenya’s economy, saying that the tea industry contributes significantly to the growth of Kenya’s economy, thus the need for insecurity to be addressed to avert negative economic impacts that could even affect the value of the Kenyan shilling.
“Despite the ongoing engagements with county security teams and Interior Ministry local chiefs and elders, the situation has unfortunately worsened, and it is imperative that swift action be taken to hold accountable those inciting these acts and restore peace and security to the tea estates,” added Njibwakale.
Irate demonstrators at Brooke Center on the outskirts of Kericho Town invaded the Ekatera Tea Limited and torched tea harvesting machines, demanding the employment of the tea plucking casuals who were laid off at the multinational tea company as a result of mechanization.
The demonstrators engaged police officers on Monday and Tuesday after they barricaded the Kericho Nakuru road, destroying properties from the neighbouring Multinational Tea Estate companies.
A heavy presence of anti-riot police officers has been deployed around the centre to maintain law and order as the protestors vow to continue protests until their grievances are addressed.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the Kericho County Governor Dr. Eric Mutai condemned the malicious invasion and damage of property by demonstrators, urging the locals to allow the County and National leadership to handle their grievances in a legally acceptable manner.