Second-hand clothes sellers are set for lean times after the government suspended importation to curb new coronavirus infection.
Trade secretary Betty Maina said public safety and the need to improve sales of locally-made clothes informed the decision.
“Importation of used clothes is suspended with immediate effect to safeguard the health of Kenyans and promote local textiles,” said the CS.
The clothes are, however, fumigated before being shipped in.
The move will deepen losses currently incurred due to poor sales attributed to harsh economic times, and the slow business environment as many Kenyans shun markets in fear of getting infected by the coronavirus.
The CS spoke when she received a proposal from the private sector on intervention measures needed to restore vibrancy in the small and medium enterprise sector.
The proposal for Growth, Sustainability and Transformation of the Apparels and Textiles and Activation of the Cotton Value Chain urged the government to give incentives to local garment makers to boost their production.
“Kenya’s goods abroad can be competitively priced if factories get access to cheap power and other tax breaks,” said the private sector proposal.
The team visiting Ms Maina said Kenya could generate more jobs if export apparel factories benefited from cheaper operational costs.
In 2019’s first nine months, traders spent Sh17.8 billion to import second-hand clothes and footwear, a rise of 6.88 percent or Sh1.14 billion compared to similar period in 2018.
This was a further growth compared to the Sh12.82 billion spent in similar period in 2017, and Sh12.43 billion in 2016, as data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.
Newly clothes exports account for more than 90 percent of Agoa exports to the US through which Kenya netted Sh68 billion last year, according to statistics by state-run Export Promotion Council.
The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China — a major source market — open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years.
This has prompted the country to create a protectionist clause within an investment policy, yet to be rolled out, aimed at identifying sectors, which will be exclusively reserved for domestic investors.
Previous efforts to ban second-hand clothes have failed, however, under pressure from source markets which termed the move protectionist and threatened to retaliate on tariffs.