French beans farmers protest over Sh7 million arrears

Over 400 French beans farmers in Subukia have called on the government to intervene in a standoff with a private company whom they claim has declined to pay their dues accruing to over Sh7 million.

The farmers led by their chair-lady Felista Karanja lamented that the company, Meru Greens had short-changed them in remitting payments for their produce for four months against their agreement.

“The company collected our produce between December and March and has paid nothing so far. They also had arrears for the previous months, which they had not fully paid. All this adds to Sh7 million,” said Karanja.

The farmers said that the company approached them in 2018 April after a disease outbreak affected their tomatoes, their then main cash crop and convinced them to grow French beans.

Karanja said that the farmers and the company entered into an agreement that they would be paid after every one week from the date of delivering their supply at Sh50 per kilo.

“A disease broke out between 2017 and 2018 and destroyed our tomatoes. Our farms had been lying idle and some reverted to maize farming. After a meeting with the company’s representatives, they gave us a deal that we agreed with,” she said.

Elizabeth Wanjiku said that the company paid them well for the first few months before they started having delays in payments from a week to months now.

Wanjiku said that this has impoverished them, as they had no other source of income apart from the crop.

“We solely depended on this crop which matures within two and a half months. We sensed danger when the first people to approach us started sending new faces to speak to us in November,” said Wanjiku.

Most of the farmers have been growing the French beans in Lower Subukia areas, which are dry with the farming supported by irrigation.

Joseph Kimani, another farmer said he has been struggling to re pay loan for water pumps.
Speaking to The Standard on the telephone, the company’s Managing Director Gerald Muthomi admitted that they owe the farmers money for the said period and were working towards resolving the issue.

Muthomi said that the company, which has a canning factory in Kitengela, was yet to export Kenyan produce since December after a glut that saw them withhold their stock.

“It is true we owe the Subukia farmers a lot. We market our product to France and the country’s market has been unstable until April this year. The market is improving and we started shipment two weeks ago,” said Muthomi.

He urged the farmers to remain calm saying that their pay would be remitted before the end of the month.

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