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Del Monte to start new factory

By WANGECHI WAITHERA
Workers sorting out pineapples at the Del Monte Kenya factory. The expansion of the factory has started.

 

Pineapple grower and fruit juice maker The Delmonte have started construction of an Sh580 million new fresh packing facility. It will have the capacity to process 70,000 tonnes of fresh fruit every year in a move planned to make local farmers the sole suppliers to the new factory.

The new plant will further enable the company that has risen to become the biggest fresh fruits exporter in the country to upscale its output. The plant is being constructed within its plantation between Thika and Kenol towns and is set to be completed by the end of this year.

It is expected to have a huge impact on the company’s plans to expand its production and distribution of fresh pineapples, avocados, mangoes and passion fruits.

The company will source the fruits from local farmers in Murang’a and Kiambu counties for both local and international markets.

According to the company’s country managing director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas, the new facility will be a big boost to the local economy and create opportunities for over 2,000 farmers to sell their fruits and vegetables.

“Through the state-of-the-art plant, the company will further, help the government achieve its Big Four agenda for local cultivation, agro-processing and full value-added support for manufacturing food security,” he said.

The company, Gkaliamoutsas said, earns the country over Sh. 9 billion in foreign exchange annually and received the best exporter of the year and best importer of the year honors from the East African Maritime awards in 2018. He noted that the company settled in the country shortly after independence and is very proud to make investments in the people and the nation.

“Over the past several decades, the company has turned vacant, unoccupied land into thriving plantations with irrigation and water infrastructure, roads clinics and schools that benefit the entire community,” he said.

He pointed out that the company exports 4,000 containers of pineapple products and other fruits beverages through the port of Mombasa. It directly employs about 6,500 people and generates approximately 28,000 other jobs through other companies that work together with the company.

“We have become one of the country’s most significant contributors to social and economic progress,” he said.

The director said the company’s most significant contributions locally come as part of its corporate social responsibility initiative that focuses on health, education and the environment.

Delmonte Kenya operates six medical clinics for employees and their families and conducts free medical camps for immunization and wellness programs for the community.

It has also established clean water points for the community and has planted over 100,000 trees in recent years.

It also repairs and maintains public roads that crisscross through the plantation.

It also runs eight nursery schools, three primary schools, and two secondary schools that it has established and maintained.

“We are keenly aware that the success of our company largely depends on the health and welfare of those we work with and the people we serve,” Gkaliamoutsas added.

The director further noted that the company made sales amounting to Sh. 4.4 billion US dollars last year out of which Sh. 666 million were from its sales to Europe.

Product certi­fication

Gkaliamoutsas also said the company has voluntarily maintained nine certifications that ensure its products are of the highest quality.

It sits on a 22,000 acres’ piece of land out of which 13,323 are under pineapples cultivation. He said the company’s leasehold for the land is however set to expire and that it started the lease renewal process 7 years ago. When devolved units were formed, it was then forced to re-apply before the process was interrupted by some parties who have been blocking the renewal.

The company is facing 6 petitions in courts over its lease renewal including one filed by Kandara Residents Association that has demanded a cessation of 6,000 acres of land claiming it was forcefully taken from their ancestors. The petition was to be settled out court through the mediation of the National Lands Commission but negotiations failed after some parties who included Murang’a and Kiambu county governments failed to attend.

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