Mitumba imports up 80pc on weak shilling, end of ban


Traders selling Second-hand clothes popularly known as Mitumba at Gikomba Market on Sunday, April 18, 2021. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

The value of second-hand clothes imports grew 80 percent in the first half of the year as State lifted a ban in the second quarter.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that the value of these clothes, popularly known as mitumba, went up to Sh9.2 billion in the review period from Sh5.1 billion in corresponding time last year.

Kenya Bureau of Standards had in late March last year suspended the importation of used clothing after the country reported its first case of Covid-19.

This precautionary measure was meant to safeguard handlers and users of used textiles and shoes from any risk of exposure to coronavirus as the world grappled with the fast-spreading pandemic.

However, the standards body lifted the ban in August last year, giving hope to millions of Kenyans who rely on second-hand clothes.

KNBS figures show that the volumes of the mitumba clothes and shoes went up by 72 percent from 53,017 tonnes to 91,283 tonnes.

An increase in value can also be attributed to a weaker shilling which traded at a mean of 104 against the dollar in the first half of last year and weakened further to an average of Sh108 in the corresponding period of 2021.

Currently, the shilling is trading at an all-time low of Sh111.

The increased second-hand imports have been a major cause of worry for new clothes dealers who say it is fast wiping out the local market leaving most tailors to survive on repairs, school uniforms and occasion wear business.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers has previously called for the imposition of punitive duty to deter increased import of new clothes sold in local retail stores at low prices.

Kenya has previously backed away from plans to impose a ban on second-hand clothes as officials argued it will leave local textile dealers at the mercy of market forces.

The government said retaining the flow of these clothes into the country will allow both importers and local producers to remain in business.

East African Community member states of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have been mulling over a joint restriction on second-hand clothes and shoes in a move meant to protect local textile manufacturers but which could harm a multi-billion shilling group of importers.

However, Kenya has been hesitant of banning these clothes for fear of being suspended from the Africa Growth Opportunity Act market, which allows the country to export goods at duty and quota-free to the US.

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