Kenya cranked up import of second hand clothes in the first three quarters of 2018 to 134,000 tonnes, just 1,800 tonnes shy of 2017 full-year importation.
In the year imports rose 31.3 percent with traders spending Sh12.74 billion.
This is a new record since 2013 when 101,066 tonnes worth Sh8.3 billion was brought in. In 2014 traders brought in 106,974 tonnes (Sh8.8 billion) while 110,659 tonnes (Sh10.1 billion) were imported in 2015 and 2016 witnessed a 19.2 percent rise to 131,941 tonnes valued at Sh12.9 billion. In the three quarters of 2017, traders spent Sh9.8 billion to bring in 102,781 tonnes of second hand clothes.
“The imports are high but the biggest threat to local new clothes manufacturing is illicit trade that is hurting local sales. We are happy with the ongoing war on illicit trade which must be sustained to help big, small and medium enterprises that produce finished apparels to benefit from a growing appetite for new clothes,” said Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) textiles and apparel sector officer Abel Kamau.
KAM are favouring a blanket taxation of up to Sh2 million for a 20-foot container and Sh4 million for a 40-foot container of finished textiles and apparels to cushion local companies against unfair competition.
“Kenya should pursue 100 percent verification of all textile imports and enhance surveillance on porous borders where punitive action should be taken against unscrupulous traders using these routes to bring in contraband apparel products."
Mr Kamau said manufacturers have been pushing for lower energy tariffs for textile firms along the value chain from ginneries, spinners, weaving and knitting companies as well as textile material makers to ease cost of production.
Twenty-two foreign-owned finished apparel factories operate at various Export Processing Zones, which, in 2017, exported clothes worth Sh36 billion largely to America and Europe. There are 170 local medium and large textile companies.
KAM said local retail chains need to give local clothes makers a platform to sell products instead of selling imports.