Mitumba not in competition with new clothes: report

Mitumba imports are not in direct competition with new clothes including locally manufactured textiles according to a new report. According to the report by the Mitumba Consortium Association in collaboration with the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) the second hand clothes imports are a function of demand rather than supply as implied for years. The report basis its finding on available statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) economic and household surveys. The report highlights mitumba and new clothes as separate markets where the players do not necessary compete. 91.5 per cent of households buy second hand clothes valued at less than Ksh.1000 on average over a three months period while only 8.5 per cent of households have second hand clothes purchases surpassing the Ksh.1000 mark. Similarly, 74.5 per cent of household new clothes purchases are of items below Ksh.1000 with onlhy 25.5 per cent of purchases surpassing the threshold. The median and mean cost of new clothes is tabulated at Ksh.450 and Ksh.783, 33 and 91 per cent below averages for used clothes whose mean seats at Ksh.409 while the median stands at a lower Ksh.280. This implies that more than half the households spend less than Ksh450 on clothing items every three months with mitumba items coming in at even lower cost. According to the Chief Executive Officer at IEA Kwame Owino, the findings serve to uncover the answer to a life-long question on the impact of mitumba on the economy. “Clothing is deemed as a function of income. If you speak of an aggressive approach to manage mitumba such as banning imports then you are actually telling poor people that they will have less choices for their clothes than others,” he said. Spending on clothing and footwear comes last in the order of priority for households at just 2.5 per cent with food purchases representing nearly half of household spending. Nevertheless, the industry remains just as crucial in supporting livelihoods with about 10 per cent of the labor force relying on the second hand clothes sub-sector for income in jobs that cover wholesalers, brokers, re-distribution, clearing agents, transportation and storage. About two million individuals are estimated to derive their daily bread from the sector in one form or another. According to data from KNBS, the value of second hand clothes has risen by 80 per cent from Ksh.10 billion to Ksh.18 billion as of 2019 in spite of a steady rise in personal incomes signifying their important role in the economy. Mitumba represent about one per cent of all imports and derived Ksh.12 billion in direct taxes to the exchequer placing their value to government at Ksh.1 billion per month. In 2019, the shipment of second hand clothes stood at 185,000 tons or about 8,000-40 feet containers. The Mitumba Consortium Association expects the report to guide the review of policy to safeguard the industry which has in recent years come under pressure with the government for instance mulling a total ban on the imports. Globally, secondhand clothing items remain essentials with jurisdictions such as Rwanda quickly reversing bans implemented to curb the growth of the sector. “This report paints a clear picture of the contribution of the sector to the economy and illustrates that both the textile industry and secondary clothes and footwear sectors can actually co-exist. The sector can therefore be not ignored,” said Chairperson to the Mitumba Consortium Teresia  Njenga.

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