Finlay, Ekaterra tea companies licences suspended over sexual exploitation claims

A report revealed more than 70 women in the two tea companies had been sexually abused. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Rainforest Alliance has suspended the licenses of two multinational tea companies in Kericho and Bomet counties over allegations of sexual abuse.

Rainforest, on Thursday, May 11, said the decision to suspend the certification of the companies was reached after it established James Finlay (Kenya), Limited and Ekaterra Tea Kenya PLC did not conform to the social and management criteria.

The Rainforest Alliance launched its own investigation after an investigative documentary on the BBC's Panorama and African Eye, which highlighted widespread sexual misconduct and gender-based violence in the Kenya tea sector.

The report revealed more than 70 women in the two companies had been sexually abused.

“For both tea estates, the audits confirmed the presence of non-conformities of the social and management criteria of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard. Based on these results, we have taken the decision to suspend the certifications of both certificate holders, in accordance with the Rainforest Alliance's Certification and Auditing Rules V1.2. The certificate holders in question have been notified, as per the rules of our program,” stated the Alliance in a statement.

The suspension as per the statement released on Thursday (May 11) took effect on Tuesday (May 9).

Rainforest in the statement notes that the tea volumes that had been sold and shipped by the two companies prior to the suspension decision communicated on May 9, 2023, remain certified.

“Buyers of these volumes can continue to claim these volumes as Rainforest Alliance Certified, based on transactions in the Rainforest Alliance traceability platform. However, volumes sold from 9th May 2023 and until the suspension is lifted cannot be claimed as Rainforest Alliance Certified unless they were contracted for and shipped prior to 9th May 2023,” continued the statement.

The Rainforest Alliance said it remains committed to working with local stakeholders and other actors along the supply chain in developing a plan for addressing the ongoing challenge of gender-based violence in a systematic way.

National Assembly Committee on Labour launched investigations into the sexual abuse claims of tea workers following the expose and is yet to submit a report.

In March Ekaterra advertised for over 1,000 job opportunities and warned nobody should ask for bribes and or sexual favours in order to be considered.

The company in the advertisements dated March 24, advertised for job vacancies to join its tea estates in Kapgwen, Kaptien and Kericho factory, and Kapkorech

“Ekaterra Tea Kenya PLC seeks to recruit self-motivated individuals to join Kapgwen estate in KS Business Unit. Nobody should ask you for bribes or sexual favour for a job,” read the advert in part.

Last week, Sri Lankan investors entered a deal to purchase Finlay.

Browns Investments PLC, a tea-producing company in Sri Lanka, announced it has entered into an agreement to purchase the company.

The purchase, according to Browns Investments PLC, will be completed in the next few months and will include all parts of James Finlay Kenya Ltd except the Saosa tea extraction facility.

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