Kericho Governor Bids Farewell to James Finlays, Welcomes Sri Lankan Tea Company

by | May 4, 2023 | News | 0 comments

Kericho Governor Erick Mutai has expressed satisfaction over the impending departure of James Finlay Limited, a prominent Kenyan tea grower, manufacturer, and supplier, as the company sells its property to a Sri Lankan enterprise. Mutai asserts that the people of Kericho will not lament the loss of the company’s presence in the region.

Governor Mutai has long been engaged in a contentious relationship with James Finlays, primarily due to the company’s reliance on machinery instead of human labor for tea harvesting. The Sri Lankan tea producer, Browns Investments PLC, recently confirmed that it has entered into an agreement to purchase James Finlays Limited. The transaction, slated for completion within the coming months, will encompass all aspects of James Finlays Kenya Ltd, excluding the Saosa Tea Extraction Facility, which will remain under Finlays’ control.

Addressing the residents of Kericho, Mutai candidly declared that James Finlays’ departure would not be mourned, suggesting that the transfer of ownership signaled a welcome change. “Goodbye, colonial settler…James Finlays. We will not miss you. It has been a cruel relationship with the host community. Your archaic colonial methods have hurt us,” Mutai remarked passionately.

The governor also criticized James Finlays for failing to consult the county government when making decisions that impact the community, despite a directive from the National Land Commission (NLC) to involve the devolved governance unit. Mutai emphasized that multinational corporations had been instructed by the NLC to engage with locals in tea sales and ownership transitions, as well as establish a Memorandum of Understanding.

Governor Mutai has been a vocal opponent of multinational tea companies’ ongoing use of mechanical tea harvesters, which he claims displace local workers. In 2022, he established a task force to address various issues within the tea sector. Among the task force’s recommendations was a proposal for tea companies to adopt a 60:40 ratio of mechanized to manual tea plucking.

Mutai urged Finlays to present the task force’s report to the incoming Sri Lankan company in order to advance the conversation. “That you hand over the report of the committee on multinational tea companies going back to handpicking from mechanized tea plucking to a ratio of 60:40 to the new owner,” he added.

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