UK Tesco supermarket suspends Kakuzi avocado supplies over rights abuses

Kenyan avocados ready for export
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UK’s largest supermarket Tesco, has stopped avocado supplies from Kenyan firm Kakuzi over allegations of human rights abuses at their farm.

Tesco says that it had suspended all supply from Kakuzi.  The Sunday Times newspaper had reported that guards employed by Kakuzi had over the past decade beaten, raped and murdered people living near the plantation. “Any form of human rights abuse in our supply chain is unacceptable,” Tesco said.

Tesco says it is working with Ethical Trading Initiative, (a group of companies, unions and NGOs that monitor supply chains), to carry out investigations in a bid to ensure workers at Kakuzi are protected.  

UK-listed company Camellia owns 50.7 per cent of Kakuzi but said it did not have “operational or managerial control, nor control of Kazuki’s board”.

Law firm Leigh Day said it had filed a lawsuit against Camellia acting for 79 Kenyans claiming to have suffered abuse from guards employed by Kakuzi. Kakuzi is the largest avocado producer in Kenya and according to the International Trade Centre is Africa’s biggest avocado exporter.

Leigh Day said the Kakuzi plantation, “is on land that was either bought when Kenya was a British colony or seized from local communities during the 1950s. This means that water sources, roads and schools belonging to the communities cross into land controlled by Kakuzi”

In a statement, Kakuzi says that “It has now become clear that the strategy is instead to run a smear campaign against Kakuzi and some of its customers. This we assert because, as far as we know, few of these accusations have ever been reported to Kakuzi or the Kenyan authorities. The claims having been made anonymously has hindered any investigation to get justice for those who seek it,”

Kakuzi has directed the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the allegations and take actions in accordance with the law. Kakuzi further says that in the case of the tragic death of the young man highlighted in the article the matter was reported to the relevant authorities and investigations are ongoing.  It adds that it has settled with the deceased’s legal representatives as appointed by the Kenyan Courts on the civil matter.

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