Kenya currently has a temporary ban on second-hand clothes (Mitumba) and local textile firms want the ban made permanent in order to revive the collapsing domestic apparel sector.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS)had imposed the ban earlier this year in order to curb the spread of the killing novel coronavirus albeit on a temporary basis.
The Leather Apex Society of Kenya (LASK) is among organizations that are appealing to the government to permanently ban the import of these cheap clothes and say this would give the country an opportunity to re-awaken the local sector.
“It is important for Kenya to induce demand for locally-finished products by keeping the ban on second-hand imports,” said the lobby group.
Kenya has in the past toyed with the idea of a permanent ban on Mitumba clothes but the low income families who depend on the sale and the use of Mitumba clothes has been a problem. The United States, where most imports come from, have also threatened retaliation if the ban was to be imposed.
The U.S had even threatened hefty measures in trade penalties after the temporary ban was implemented saying the virus did not spread through clothes.
The US lobby group Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (Smart) protested Kenya’s ban, noting that all available research on Covid-19 shows it does not spread through second-hand clothes and shoes.
“There is no supporting evidence that Covid-19 can be transmitted through second-hand textiles. We believe Kenya’s recent ban is a disingenuous attempt to stop second-hand clothing trade masquerading as a measure to protect its citizens,” said Jackie King, Smart executive director in late April.
While pushing for the permanent ban, The local industries say the newly increased demand for locally-produced apparel and shoes will force more local industries to lower prices and increase their production capacity making them affordable to a majority of Kenyans who use pricing as the major excuse for opting for imports
“Local industries have sufficient capacity to supply the market with affordable products in an environment that offers economies of scale,” said Beatrice Mwasi, LASK secretary-general.
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