Mitumba traders ask government to lift ban on importation of products
Secondhand clothes traders have urged the government to lift the ban on the importation of the products that was imposed in March as a control measure for prevention of Covid-19 spread.
Mitumba Association chairperson Bishop Teresia Wairimu said the association has measures to ensure their trade does not become a transmission agent for the disease.
The Ministry of Trade, Industrialization and Enterprise Development imposed the ban through the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) as a temporary measure to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The Ministry announced the measure to ensure continued inspection of clothes and footwear from the source markets.
But Bishop Wairimu said the economic impact of the importation ban has been considerable and two million livelihoods are at stake. She said last year the sector paid more than Sh13.4billion to the exchequer.
“Our traders are unable to restock their wares since the ban on secondhand clothes and footwear has interrupted the supply of their wares. This is despite the continued and steady demand for affordable clothes and footwear by Kenyans facing economic hardships,” Bishop Wairimu said
Wairimu said the association has taken a step to engage the Ministry with a view of seeking the rescinding of the temporal measure.
“Two weeks ago we submitted a set of comprehensive business protocols to guide the continued importation and trading of mitumba in the country. The guidelines are in tandem with similar guidelines issued by the Ministry,” she said.
“We are confident that the fact that there is no credible public health risk, and the mitumba industry proven willingness to co-operate with additional local fumigation protocol and public health guidelines (the government) will rescind the ban.”
She said mitumba clothes and footwear have a history of undergoing some of the most rigorous health inspection measures adding that the latest scientific advice indicates that the importation of secondhand garments and shoes poses no credible public health.
“The goods are shipped for 45 days on average in sealed containers. The scientific research concludes that the Coronavirus cannot survive on any inanimate object for longer than nine days,” she said.
Wairimu said the protocols submitted to the Ministry will add a layer of extra health measures for the importation of mitumba at the country of origin and upon arrival.
She said, comparative to all other imports including, other fabrics, mitumba will undergo additional disinfection and fumigation.
“Apart from the additional cost to the importers, this will be a reassurance to all on health and safety,” Wairimu said.
“We believe that we have reached a balanced stage where measures to save lives and livelihoods have been taken and the time to rescind the ban on secondhand clothes is here.”
Wairimu said the mitumba sector employs about 10 percent of the extended labour force which translates to approximately 2 million people, both directly and indirectly.
“These two million people are distributed in the formal and informal trade sides of the industry in Kenya. The formal traders include those who import, transport and distribute mitumba throughout the country,” she said.
“Included here are also medium scale traders who purchase bales of mitumba and trade exclusively in different markets throughout Kenya.”