KENYA – A second supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, Lidl has suspended avocado supplies from Kakuzi Limited, Kenyan vast plantation company, days after Tesco supermarket did the same.

The grocery and food retailer has suspended Kakuzi dealership over claims of human rights abuse to its workers, which were citied by Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper.

According to the report, a UK law firm Leigh Day, which is representing scores of alleged victims of rape and violence perpetrated by Kakuzi’s employees, has filed a lawsuit accusing Camellia Plc for turning a blind eye to systematic human rights abuse by its subsidiary for a period of 11 years.

“Following the most recent allegations, we have temporarily suspended our supply from the grower while further investigations are undertaken.

“We recognise that human rights’ due diligence is an ongoing process and we are committed to continuing to support our working group partners to address this issue moving forward,” said Lidl Communications Manager Glenda Rochead.

Lidl further revealed that along with several other retailers and suppliers and NGOs, they have supported a working group to ensure that issues within its avocado supply chain are independently investigated and a detailed action plan was agreed, reports Standard Media.

To this end retailer Sainsbury has also joined the bandwagon of stores that have stopped buying avocado from the Kenyan supplier.

“Sainsbury’s will not accept further produce from Kakuzi until we are satisfied that the robust action plan in place addresses the issues that have been raised,” Sainsbury’s Corporate and Financial Communications Manager, Sophie Praill, said .

“Following the most recent allegations, we have temporarily suspended our supply from the grower while further investigations are undertaken.”

Lidl Communications Manager – Glenda Rochead

In a twist turn of events, the UK multinational Camellia Plc stated that it does not control Kakuzi’s board or its day-to-day operations in a bid to distance itself from accusations.

“Kakuzi is a Kenyan farming company, quoted on the Nairobi stock exchange and is led by Kakuzi’s board of directors on behalf of its 3,000 employees and 1,300 (mostly Kenyan) shareholders.

“Camellia bought a 50.7 percent stake in the 1990s but we don’t have operational or managerial control, nor control of the board,” the multinational said in a statement.

Also, Kakuzi denied the allegations claiming that in July 2020 Leigh Day dropped the Court claims and that the current accusations are a strategy to run a smear campaign against Kakuzi and some of its customers.

It also highlighted that it has provided fully funded independent legal advice and professional counselling services for any claimant as part of a dispute resolution process recognized under the Kenyan Constitution.

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