An international company (James Finlay) dealing in planting and export of tea and flowers has announced plans to close two of its flower farms in Kericho leaving 2,000 employees working on the farm staring at job losses.
In a statement, the company cites high labor costs and perennial employee strikes that have made it uncompetitive in the market even though flower earnings from exports in the country increased by 11.6 per cent to Sh82.24bn in 2017 up from Sh70.83bn in 2016 according to the Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya.
The closure of the two farms (Chemirei and Tarakwet) will start in May this year with the final closure expected in 2020.
However, the company will expand its operation in Lemotit farm in Londiani and some of the employees working on the soon to be closed farms may be absorbed there.
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Last year, the company was among other multinational institutions in the tea and flower sector that were affected by strike by workers who were demanding a 30 per cent pay hike that was awarded by the high court in 2014.
Others included Williamson, Kaisugu, and the Tea Research Institute.
As a result of the strike, Finlays lost six million shillings worth of firewood in October 2017 that was burnt by unknown people as the strike continued.
Workers packing flowers at James Finlay Company in Kericho/photo:courtesy
The strike also left tea overgrown and hence the leaves could not meet the standard for processing and had to be discarded.
In Kenya, multinational companies account for 30 per cent of the total tea exported with the product being the leading foreign exchange earner.
In 2017, Kenya earned Sh129bn from tea sales up from Sh120bn in 2016, an eight per cent increase according to data from the Tea Directorate.