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Economy

Tea multinationals at risk as land leases petition goes to House

Farmers pick fresh tea leaves at a tea plantation in Kericho. PHOTO | FILE
Farmers pick fresh tea leaves at a tea plantation in Kericho. PHOTO | FILE 

Multinational tea companies risk losing their lucrative businesses if Parliament approves a petition seeking to block the renewal of expired land leases.

Residents of Nandi County have taken the battle for control of the multi-billion shilling tea industry to the National Assembly through a petition presented on their behalf by Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter.

The petitioners are seeking to be consulted in decisions on application for renewal of expired leases for thousands of hectares of tea plantations.

“I the undersigned, on behalf of residents of Nandi County, draw the attention of the House that the government should embrace public participation as stipulated in the Constitution during consideration for the renewal of the leases,” Mr Keter said in the petition to the National Assembly committee on Lands.

Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso directed the Lands Committee to investigate the issues raised in the petition and report to the House within 60 days.
The petitioners are asking the National Assembly to establish the status of the land tenure for 19 tea estates in Nandi County.

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The Nandi leases were to initially run for a period of 999 years, but that was reduced to 99 years upon enactment of the 2010 Constitution.

Some of the 99-year leases have now expired with others almost coming to an end amid turf wars between counties and the national government over whose mandate it is to handle renewal applications.

The petitioners want Parliament to establish the lease status of parcels of land including Kipkoiben, Kipkeikei, Kabsumbeiywo, Chemomi, Savani and Nandi tea estates.

Others are Siret, Kipchamo, Kipkoimet, Kapchorwa, Kaboswa, Kibobet and Kalyet tea estates.

Should Parliament grant the petitioners wishes that the land leases should not be renewed, the companies that will be most affected are Williamson Tea and Eastern Produce, which between them own 16 out of the 19 tea factories in the county. The two companies employ about 40,000 people.

The rest are run by Kenya Tea Development Agency and Nyayo Tea Zones Corporation.

The Kenya Tea Development Agency has two factories, Chebut and Kaptumo, while Nyayo Tea Zones Corporation has one at Kipchabo Trading Centre. Williamson Tea has factories and plantations in Kapchorwa, Kaimosi and Tinderet.

The petitioners alleged that the British empire, through its colonial administration, evicted the Nandi community from their ancestral land currently occupied by multinational tea companies.

“That in 1900 the British colonial government mapped areas in Nandi county in particular Nandi Hills and Tinderet constituencies. The white settlers settled in the white highlands and established tea plantations, which are still in existence to date,” the petitioners said.

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