Tea company in Kenya suspends operations after protesters burnt machinery
A Kenya-based multinational tea company has suspended operations after tea picking and harvesting machines were set on fire by protesters, citing massive job losses due to mechanization
NAIROBI, Kenya — A Kenya-based multinational tea company has suspended operations after tea picking and harvesting machinery was set on fire by protesters, citing massive job losses due to mechanization.
The suspension of operations at farms in the South Rift region of tea company Ekaterra will affect thousands of employees.
The Kenya Tea Growers Association announced on Tuesday that all major tea growers in Kenya would scale back operations in solidarity with Ekaterra until safety is assured.
Casual laborers previously employed to pick tea demonstrated on Monday against the loss of jobs due to the use of machinery. They told local media that, furthermore, automating the picking process results in more work for the sorting department employees as the machines do not pick the best tea leaves.
They burned five machines and looted tea products from one of the company’s stores.
The tea growers association has called on President William Ruto to intervene as there have been various other attacks at other tea farms in the South Rift Region as locals protest against the use of machinery.
The association says assets worth 50 million Kenyan shillings ($362,000) were destroyed over an unspecified period. Tea losses were also assessed at 120 million shillings by the association.
Ekaterra has lost 15 machines to fires in the past seven months.
Kenya is one of the world’s leading tea exporters. The tea production industry faced challenges and tea exports declined in 2022.
The industry employs millions of people at farms and factories across the country.