Security guards at a Del Monte pineapple farm in Kenya that supplies most British supermarkets have been accused of brutally assaulting and killing people suspected of trespassing on its land, a recent report has claimed.
According to a joint investigation report by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) released on Wednesday (21), several people are allegedly killed by Del Monte security guards in the last decade while there are numerous allegations of violence perpetrated by guards on the farm.
The shocking scale of the accusations has been captured by the law firm Leigh Day in a letter to Del Monte detailing 146 alleged incidents involving 134 locals over a decade. It includes claims of five deaths – all since 2019 – as well as reports of dozens of serious injuries and beatings that have left people unconscious. It also includes five allegations of rape plus allegations of serious injuries, including head wounds, broken bones and cuts from blades requiring stitches since 2013.
Del Monte is the biggest private-sector employer in Kenya and the farm provides thousands of locals with work. Its 80 sq km plantation sits on the border of Murang’a and Kiambu counties, about 40 kilometres northeast of Nairobi. The pineapple exporter earned the country’s economy more than $100m in foreign exchange in 2018 while the farm is the single largest exporter of Kenyan produce to the world, states TBIJ.
The report states how the guards of the farm armed with wooden clubs often clash with local men allegedly trying to steal pineapples.
“This huge global operation means that, although countless pineapples are grown in the area every year, virtually the only ones sold locally are those that have been stolen from the farm,” states TBIJ.
“Dogged by poverty and brought up on the belief that Del Monte is too big to be tried in court, many families in the area have given up on pursuing justice for injuries and deaths. Even when action is taken, the justice system moves slowly.
The report further claims that people caught stealing pineapples receive lengthy prison sentences, stating how in 2008, three men were brought to trial for the attempted armed theft of 30 pineapples, worth about $20, from Del Monte’s farm. They were found guilty of robbery with violence and sentenced to death.
Reacting to the allegations, Del Monte said that it took the allegations “extremely seriously” and that it has “instituted a full and urgent investigation” into them. It said that the conduct alleged is in “clear violation” of its “longstanding commitment to human rights” and the policies and procedures it has in place.
Tesco said it had suspended orders on all products sourced from the farm until an investigation is concluded. Waitrose said it expects its suppliers to comply with “strict ethical standards” and that it welcomed Del Monte’s review.
The British Retail Consortium, the industry body that represents UK supermarkets, said it welcomed Del Monte’s investigation and its “commitment to constant improvement in working practices”.