KENYA – Kenyan fresh food producer and exporter, Kakuzi Plc, has won back the trust and business partnership of European based supermarkets, with its parent company Camellia revealing that they will soon resume avocado exports to the lucrative market.
Supermarket chains Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Lidl suspended Kakuzi dealership in October following claims of human rights abuse to its workers, which were citied on Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper.
“The serious human rights claims the group faced relating to its operations in Kenya led to a number of European supermarket chains suspending Kakuzi as a supplier of avocados.
“We are proactively working to address these customer concerns, including with the assistance of leading human rights advisers and are pleased that a number of our customers intend to resume trade in the new season,” said the multinational company Camellia Plc as indicated by Business Daily.
Camellia and its local subsidiary have paid a heavy price to win back the confidence of customers in Europe who value ethical corporate behaviour nearly as much as quality of produce.
The British owner of the vast Kenyan plantation company, undertook financial compensation to the 85 victims of alleged rape and violence perpetrated by Kakuzi’s employees.
Camellia Plc is reported to have paid £4.6m (US$6.3m) in relation to the Kenyan case, alongside £2.3m (US$3.1m) issued to similar allegations brought against its Malawian subsidiary, Eastern Produce Malawi (EPM).
Kakuzi had separately spent Ksh137.4 million (US$1.2m) on lawyers in the year ended December to defend itself against the human rights abuse charges, reports Business Daily.
“We are proactively working to address these customer concerns, including with the assistance of leading human rights advisers and are pleased that a number of our customers intend to resume trade in the new season.”Camellia
Other than financial compensation, the company has set up an Operational-level Grievance Mechanism (OGM), as defined by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
This is aimed to enable members of the community to have their grievances heard and resolved quickly, impartially and in accordance with internationally recognized best practices.
Further to that, Kakuzi pledged to undertake a myriad of community socially responsible programs to strengthen its relations with the residents.
Despite the heated case, Kakuzi’s exports of avocadoes to UK and continental Europe rose 21.8 per cent to Ksh2.2 billion (US$20.5m) in the year ended December, the sales would have been even higher without the boycott which took effect in the last quarter.
In readiness of the new avocado season, the agricultural firm has unveiled free fruit maturity testing service for smallholder farmers for the current harvest period.
The services will ensure compliance with quality standards and enhance the value of Kenyan fruit in the global market.
It will be provided at its FSSC 22000 Food Safety Management Systems certified Kakuzi Avocado Processing and Packhouse facility, located near Makuyu town, along the Nairobi-Nyeri highway.
The initiative is aimed to reduce post-harvest challenges arising from the handling of premature fruits.