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Coronavirus: Kenya locks out mitumba clothes

Wednesday March 25 2020
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Customers buy mitumba clothes on Gakere street in Nyeri town on August 13, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JAMES KARIUKI

Second-hand clothes’ dealers are staring at turbulent times after the government suspended importation of mitumba.

Trade Secretary Betty Maina said public safety and the need to improve sales of locally made apparel informed the decision.

“Importation of used clothes is suspended with immediate effect to safeguard the health of Kenyans and promote local textiles,” said the CS Wednesday.

The Cabinet Secretary also cited spread of the Coronavirus among the reasons for the move, although used clothes are normally fumigated before being shipped to Kenya.

The CS spoke when she received a proposal from the private sector on intervention measures needed to restore vibrancy in the small and medium enterprise sector.

Titled ‘Sustainability and transformation of the apparels and textiles and activation of the cotton value chain’, the proposal urged the government to give incentives to local garment makers to boost their production.

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“Kenya’s goods abroad can be competitively priced if factories get access to cheap power and other tax breaks,” said the private sector proposal.

The team visiting CS Maina said Kenya could generate more jobs if export apparel factories benefited from cheaper operational costs.

In the first nine months of 2019, traders spent Sh17.8 billion on second-hand clothes and footwear importation being a 6.88 per cent growth or Sh1.14 billion more than the same period the previous year.

This is a further growth of over Sh12.82 billion in January-September period of 2017 and Sh12.43 billion a year earlier, as data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.

Newly made clothes exported accounted for more than 90 per cent of Agoa sales through which Kenya netted Sh68 billion last year, according to statistics by State-run Export Promotion Council.

The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China — a major source market — open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market

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