chapter  12
15 Pages

Kenya Canners Limited: A Pineapple Plantation and Cannery in Kenya

WithSimon Williams

Kenya Canners (KC) is a subsidiary of the Del Monte Corporation, which owns 95 percent of the equity. The enterprise is a classic example of collaboration by public and private institutions to promote agricultural exports and invigorate a rural area.

KC began operations in 1949, long before Del Monte came to Kenya. By 1965, the company was close to failure and contracted the services of Del Monte to manage operations. At that time, the Government of Kenya (GOK) also contracted with Del Monte to investigate the potential of Kenya for large-scale cultivation, processing, and export of pineapple. In 1968, the result was first, the purchase of KC by Del Monte; and second, the purchase of 8,800 hectares (1 hectare = 2.5 acres) by the government, which were then leased to KC for forty-eight years, renewable for the same term thereafter. This land was made up of four contiguous, unused, former sisal farms, so that no farmers were displaced. KC has since built a new cannery and operates a 4,000 hectare pineapple plantation. In addition, 400 hectares are in coffee cultivation; some cattle are being raised; and a major reforestation program is planned for erosion control and to supply charcoal and lumber to KC employees.

KC is not a satellite farming procurement system. All raw material comes from the central pineapple plantation. The rural development impact of the company derives from its employment and training of some 6,000 people. The enterprise has built several complete communities that house the majority of its employees and include a variety of health, educational, and recreational facilities. KC does reach out to the small-scale farmers in the area by providing technical assistance in the cultivation of pineapple for the local fresh-fruit market.

For the first time in its history as a Del Monte subsidiary, KC is currently actively exploring an outgrower system of procurement. The plantation has reached its maximum feasible area and productivity has leveled off. The problem being faced is that 190pineapple cultivation to supply a large-scale cannery is not feasible if carried on in scattered, small-scale farms. Interestingly, after independence in Kenya groups of small-scale farms were established on large estates formerly owned by non-Kenyans. In addition to establishing clusters of farms, large units of land were held back for single management systems operated professionally but for the benefit of the farmer members of what can be a cooperative or a corporation. KC is working with one such cooperative to determine the feasibility of utilizing its large estate for pineapple cultivation. The rural development implications of this experiment are considered below.