Waititu renews Del Monte's 8,000 acres leasehold

Del Monte managing director Stergios Gkaliamouts and Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu after signing a Memorandum of Understanding to renew the lease for the company's 8,000 acres parcel in Thika Town on Friday. [Kamau Maichuhie, Standard]

The leasehold of Del Monte Kenya's 8,000-acre land has been renewed for another 99 years.

In return, the food processing firm has surrendered 635 acres to the county.

The North American company holds over 22,000 acres in Murang’a and Kiambu counties.

Governor Ferdinand Waititu and Del Monte managing director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas signed a memorandum of understanding authenticating the lease last Friday in Thika town.

Mr Waititu assured the company that his administration would continue to provide a conducive environment to encourage it to invest more in the county.

He asked his Murang’a counterpart, Mwangi wa Iria, to follow his example and renew Del Monte’s leasehold for the land in his jurisdiction. 

Waititu said legal battles over the matter would jeopardise the company.

“There is no need for court cases over the issue of leasehold. Murang’a County needs to borrow a leaf from us and seek alternative conflict resolution mechanisms,” he said.

There has been a tussle pitting the company and the Murang’a County leadership over the renewal of the lease.

In suit papers filed in court in 2015, Mr Gkaliamoutsas indicated that political leaders from Murang’a had demanded over 3,000 acres of land from Del Monte as a condition to renew the lease that expires next year.

The leaders want the land along the Thika-Kenol highway surrendered for a planned town. 

In court, Del Monte said it had agreed to give up 500 acres and later increased this to 1,000 acres, but the county government had refused to renew the lease.

The Murang’a leaders later withdrew the offer of renewing the lease in exchange for land and instead increased their demands. Among these are that Del Monte give up 3,000 acres for public use.

Waititu said 200 of the 635 acres would be given to the Kenya Airports Authority for the construction of an airstrip and another 20 acres set aside for a cemetery.

“Residents of Thika will decide how the remaining piece of the land will be utilised,” explained Waititu.

Gkaliamoutsas said the company planned to invest in new projects that will create 2,000 new jobs after the renewal of the lease.

“We seek to contribute in the realisation of the Government’s Big Four agenda,” he said.