UK-based Tesco suspends orders from Del Monte

Del Monte farm, based in Thika has been accused of human rights abuses. [File, Standard]

UK supermarket giant Tesco on Thursday said it had suspended the supply of fruits and fruit products from Thika-based Del Monte plantation operations accused of systemic human rights abuses in a new lawsuit by Kenyans.

Britain's biggest grocery retailer announced the move after UK-based law firm Leigh Day said earlier on Wednesday it had initiated legal action against Del Monte, whose subsidiary runs the site.

Del Monte is facing a legal compensation claim by 134 Kenyans living in impoverished communities around its Thika plantation over alleged serious human rights abuses by security guards.

A statement by Leigh Day said the guards are accused of "five deaths, five rapes, and serious, often life-changing injuries, caused by consistently brutal and degrading behaviour with no regard for the lives, wellbeing or human dignity of their victims."

"Villagers describe being kicked, beaten and left unconscious by the use of whips or of metal bars, batons, and machetes, apparently as a punishment for or deterrent against the theft of pineapples," said the UK law firm in a statement.
"There are also allegations of sexual humiliation and a number of women detail rapes by the security guards deployed by Del Monte at the plantation."

The Standard could not immediately reach Del Monte Kenya Limited or its parent firm by press time last evening on the grave allegations made by Leigh Day. Retail giant Tesco which operates over 4,000 grocery stores in the UK and Ireland, including franchise stores said it had suspended its links with Del Monte Kenya.

Pineapple plantation at Del Monte farm in Muranga County. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

"We are shocked and appalled to learn of these allegations on Del Monte's Thika farm in Kenya. We have therefore taken the decision to immediately suspend Del Monte fruit products sourced from this farm while the investigation into these claims is carried out," a Tesco spokesperson told the Standard Newspaper in response to our queries.

"Any form of human rights abuse is clearly unacceptable and we expect our suppliers to protect the welfare of everyone working in our supply chains, as well as respecting the human rights of the communities in which they operate."
Kenyan retailers did not respond to The Standard's queries on their relationship with Del Monte Kenya following their UK law firm suit.

Naivas chief operating officer Willy Kimani, Quickmart Supermarket CEO Peter Kang'iri, and the chief executive of the Retail Trade Association of Kenya (Retrak) Wambui Mbarire had not responded to Standard queries via telephone by press time.

Law firm Leigh Day revealed earlier on Wednesday that 134 Kenyans had launched a legal claim in the High Court in London against Del Monte for alleged human rights abuses by security guards employed by the Thika-based firm, its Kenyan subsidiary.

Fruit giant Del Monte is accused of betraying its human rights pledges with allegations against security guards of alleged violent beatings and the rape of villagers living near its pineapple plantation in Kenya.
Del Monte's Thika plantation in Kenya which is famously known to grow pineapples is one of three principal production and procurement areas for Del Monte's pineapples worldwide.
Del Monte's prepared pineapple products are primarily sourced from Kenya. Del Monte's net pineapple sales in 2022 were $584.6 million (Sh82.1 billion) or 13 per cent of the group's total net sales.

Del Monte pineapple products are widely available and stocked at major UK supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's, ASDA, Morrisons, and Waitrose.

The Standard did not immediately get a response from the retailers by the time of going to press.

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