Prepare for higher taxes on ‘mitumba’, Trade CS Moses Kuria says

Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria

Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Second-hand clothes traders in the country will be hit with higher taxes if a government proposal to increase duty on the imports goes through.

In what the government says is a move aimed at reviving the country’s ailing cotton industry, Investment, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria has proposed the imposition of 25 per cent duty on imported garments, including second-hand ones, popularly known as mitumba.

“As a country, we have a rich textile sector, but it has been stifled by imports. The textile industry should be expanded to benefit Kenyans and to encourage the sector to grow, we need to control imported fabrics,” the CS said in Eldoret at a pre-devolution conference meeting with textile industry players. He regretted that the sector employs about 50,000 people instead of millions in the entire value chain.

Mr Kuria indicated that the government will introduce a Bill within this financial year to impose the 25 per cent tax on imported textiles, saying imported garments should be treated as a luxury.

“For us to revive the textile industry, Kenyans should consume more of our locally made clothes. But that’s not the case at the moment because mitumba and other imported fabrics are now our main source of clothing. We should reverse this trend,” he said.

To encourage mitumba traders to buy locally made clothes, he said, the government would ensure that cheap fabrics are available.

“One of the reasons Kenyans flock to mitumba is the perception that they are cheap. In the future, we will create an alternative for the mitumba where they will have access to cheap and durable clothes for sale”" he said.

The CS called on cotton producing areas to step up their production, saying farmers were eager to see the revival of the sector.

“I was recently in Busia County and was thrilled by the enthusiasm of the farmers. All they needed was a little support to help them achieve maximum yields, not the seminars, workshops and benchmarking we see,” he said.

He added: “We intend to give incentives to counties that explore their potential in cotton production. We will give them commercial ginneries with full boards and make them semi-autonomous,” he said, noting that counties have a leading role in supporting cotton farmers

During a tour of the Rivatex factory, Kitui Governor Julius Malombe and his West Pokot counterpart Simon Kachapin said farmers in the cotton-producing counties should be better paid.

“Farmers need a guarantee of payment because they are very willing to grow cotton,” said Dr Malombe.

Mr Kachapin said their tour showed how under-utilised the factory was. “We need to encourage our farmers to grow more cotton. There is a lot of potential in the sector,” he said.