We are here for long haul, asserts Unilever Tea Kenya

Farmers picking tea in Kericho.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • MD Sylvia-Ten Den says Kenya operations are only undergoing a strategic review.
  • She indicated that the process will continue until the end of 2021 when a decision will be made on UTKL’s next step.
  • The review is aimed at figuring out the best business model to reap profits from UTKL’s tea business.

Unilever Tea Kenya Limited will retain its presence in Kenya as its parent firm mulls a change of operations on global subsidiaries with the exception of India and Indonesia. 

The tea firm’s British-Dutch parent company Unilever announced in a half-year report released in July that only India and Indonesia businesses will continue operating as they are, while others internationally undergo a strategic review.

The parent firm will shift some of its operations around to a subsidiary while some of its business could be sold.

Unilever Tea Kenya Limited Managing Director Sylvia-Ten Den says Kenya operations are only undergoing a strategic review to establish the best business model and that an exit from the country is not on the cards.

While Ms Den did not give a specific date when the review would end, she indicated that the process will continue until the end of 2021 when a decision will be made on UTKL’s next step.

Best business model

The review is aimed at figuring out the best business model to reap profits from UTKL’s tea business.

The firm has also denied claims by worker lobby group Kenya Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union (KPAWU) that it has over 60,000 workers.

Ms Den did not give the exact number of workers UTKL has, but the firm’s website says it has 5,500 permanent workers and “thousands of temporary workers during the peak season”

The UTKL boss holds that the strategic business review will not affect current operations and that there is no plan to lay off workers.

“We are not scaling down our operations, the full outcome of the ongoing strategic review will only be clear by the end of 2021. This has been made clear in our official communication on the same,” Ms Den said in an interview.

UTKL says the only voluntary retirement scheme it had expired in February 2019 and that it partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Kericho office and several non-governmental organisations to help affected workers secure alternative jobs.


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