Medical imports up 71pc ahead of March virus case

Port of Mombasa
Port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Pharmaceutical firms and medical suppliers increased volume of imports by nearly three quarters in the three months to March as traders stocked up in readiness for the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows local pharmaceutical orders increased to 13,897 tonnes between January and March from 8,121 tonnes a year earlier.

This represents a growth of 71 per cent or 5,776 tonnes in the review period when Kenya was on high alert over the possible outbreak of the deadly disease.

“The increment was mostly driven by imported generic medical drugs from Turkey as people stocked-up because of panic,” said Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya president Machogu Louis.

Traders started importing medicines and pharmaceutical raw materials from Turkey after supplies run out following export restrictions imposed on China, Egypt and India markets.


While there are about 35 local drug manufacturers, imports account for up to 75 per cent of the local demand with India being the key market for Kenya.

Generic medicines, which are ordered on a need-be basis, account for up to 30 per cent of imported drugs and pharmaceutical products in Kenya.

The import bill for medical and pharmaceutical products increased by Sh2.8 billion, to Sh18.17 billion from Sh15.2 billion in the first quarter of 2019, the KNBS data indicates.

Distributors and hospitals stock-pilled pharmaceutical products, hand sanitisers, gloves and face masks in the review period.

This resulted in a surge in retail price for pharmaceutical and medical products as an artificial shortage emerged due to panic buying.

A week before Kenya reported its first Covid-19 case, the price of protective masks tripled from Sh500 to Sh1,700 a pack in the wholesale market.

As demand for essential items like medicines and foodstuff increased, demand for non-essentials such as furniture has dropped due to the Covid-19 pandemic.