Mitumba sector on death bed as imports dry out following ban

Thursday, June 11th, 2020 00:00 |
Mitumba clothes. Photo/Courtesy

TRADE:  As Covid-19 continues to sink billions of shillings in revenue from different sectors of the economy, small and medium-sized enterprises appear to be the worst hit.

More effects in the coming days are imminent, and different sectors are reeling from the shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sector of second-hand clothes popularly known as the mitumba, has not been spared either and players in the lucrative business are a worried lot.

On April 9, the government banned the importation of second-hand clothes and shoes in a move  aimed at controlling the spread of Covid-19.

Loan repayment

For Rodgers Mogaka 42, who imports used garments in bulk from overseas, the announcement dealt a big blow to him as all his imports are still stuck at the Port of Mombasa.

“I have lost not less than Sh10 million in the last three months. I import second- hand clothes from the UK and since the directive was issued, all cargo is stuck at the warehouses and at the port,” said Mogaka. The trader says he is currently servicing a Sh6 million loan. 

“I am now forced to plead with banks to review my monthly payments as the situation is getting worse. My appeal is that the government lifts the restrictions,” he added.

Mogaka said for a month he would import two to three containers, but since the restrictions were imposed, everything went to a standstill. 

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya imported 177,160 tonnes of mitumba that were valued at about Sh17 billion, spending Sh11.96 billion in the first six months of 2019.

Kenya imports about 100,000 tonnes of second-hand clothes a year, providing the government revenues from customs duties and creating tens of thousands of jobs.

Kebs managing director Bernard Njiraini said the standards boards had banned importation of used garments and footwear with immediate effect until further notice as a precautionary measure.

He added that the ban conforms with Kenyan standards that prohibit imports from a country experiencing an epidemic.

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