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Saturday, 4 July 2020

Ban imports of locally made goods, producers urge

Thika Cloth Mills CEO Tejal Dodhia at her garment making firm in Thika.

The influx of cheap imports in Kenya has been a big blow to the manufacturing industry and a hurdle to the country’s economic progress, local manufacturers and leaders have said.

They say Kenya has lost its competitive edge in the global market due to mass importation of products that can be locally made. 

Thika Cloth Mills boss Tejal Dodhia said locking out imports of products that are locally made will rejuvenate many local firms that are on the verge of being kicked out of business. 

Dodhia said the government, through the Kenya Revenue Authority and Parliament, should crack the whip on the imports and help resuscitate the economy that has been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Locking up the imports is in line with the Buy Kenya Build Kenya policy aimed at empowering local manufacturers and boosting the country’s economy. Therefore, the government should move with speed and control flooding of cheap imports to save local manufacturers,” the CEO said at her firm in Thika on Friday.

She said local textile firms have suffered unfair competition through importation of cheap textiles which has led to loss of thousands of jobs. 

Some of the manufacturers that closed due to unfair competition and importation of cheap textiles  include Raymonds, Kicomi, United Textile Industries, Yuken, Bhupco and Mombasa Towels among others. 

Dodhia 's sentiments were echoed by a group of poultry farmers in Thika who have been grappling with the high cost of production and a lack of a proper market due to influx of cheap eggs from other countries like Uganda.

The Kiambu Poultry Farmers’ Cooperative Society which manufactures feeds, led by coordinator Zachary Munyambu, said controlling the imports will make the farmers’ ventures more profitable. 

“Farmers will be assured of a ready market for their products and high returns from their farming activities,” Munyambu said. 

The group with over 700 members is rearing about 800,000 layers, another 400,000 broilers and 200,000 free-range (kienyeji) chicken.

Thika MP Patrick Wainaina tabled a Bill in Parliament seeking a ban on importation of products that are locally manufactured. 

The Safeguard Bill - which is at an advanced stage in Parliament - seeks to introduce punitive duties for imports of locally made goods. 

Wainaina said the bill will give a lifeline and protect local manufacturers. 

“It’s a shame that at this age we are still importing goods like matchboxes, toothpicks, eggs, mangoes, oranges, spoons and cooking pans which are manufactured and produced locally,” Wainaina said in Thika town on Friday.

The lawmaker said the country was suffering from unfavorable balance of trade with other countries which needed to be rectified.

The country imports goods worth Sh2 trillion annually and exports goods worth on Sh500 billion, Wainaina said.

“The country cannot prosper with such a trade deficit. About 25 per cent of all imports come from China." 

However, Dodhia is upbeat that things are looking up for the textile industry expressing confidence and hope that the government is doing everything possible to revive the local textile sector.

Over the last four years of the Jubilee administration, she said, the industry has expanded and the level of exports had increased.

Her firm has already been contracted by the government to manufacture uniforms for the Kenya Wildlife Services. “The government is serious and committed to taking manufacturing in the country to another level." 

She also challenged Kenyans to promote locally-made products to improve the economy, attract more investment, retain skills and increase employment.

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