Mitumba to cost more as traders raise prices

Traders blame weak shilling and high shipping costs.

In Summary

•For instance, importing a 40-foot container from China has increased from $3, 000 (about Sh346, 950) in the last one year, to $9,000 (Sh1.04 million).•

•Locally, mitumba bale prices, which range from Sh8,000 to Sh50,000, have increased by more than 30 per cent, traders note.

Bales of mitumba/FILE
Bales of mitumba/FILE
Image: FILE

If you thought it is only high food and travel costs that you have to contend with, think twice.

It will now cost you more to dress up after mitumba dealers, whose clothes fill up the wardrobes of many Kenyans announced a price review on Thursday. 

They said apart from the cost of importation having more than doubled, the disruption in the global supply chain and shortage of vessels has worsened the situation.

The weak shilling against the US dollar has also exposed traders to costly imports, according to the Mitumba Consortium Association of Kenya (MCAK).

The local currency which has been on a losing streak in recent months hit a new low on Wednesday, trading at 115.60 against the US Dollar.

Yesterday, the Central Bank of Kenya quoted it at 115.54 with its weakness continuing to expose the country to more expensive imports. Exporters on the other hand are making good returns.

The global shipping industry has been affected by the Russia-Ukraine war and increased trade between China, parts of Europe and the US.

This has seen firms focus more on these lucrative markets, as opposed to some parts of Africa, with East Africa among the most affected.

The cost of importing a 40-foot container from China has increased from $3,000 (about Sh346, 950) in the last one year, to $9,000 (Sh1.04 million).

A weak shilling has also seen taxes on a similar consignment increase to about Sh2 million from Sh1.8 million shillings, where duty calculation includes the value of the item in the import source.

Locally, mitumba bale prices, which range from Sh8,000 to Sh50,000, have increased by more than 30 per cent, traders note.

“Some people have even stopped importing from certain market which means we have a shortage," the the association’s chairperson Teresia Njenga said.

She said the high costs have to be passed to consumers which will definitely affect prices.

She spoke in Nairobi during the launch of the Mitumba sector report dubbed “Global Production Networks of the Second-Hand Clothing Industry”.

Kenya is a big market for second-hand clothes due to the affordability with among the top reasons being  affordability withe prices of some items as low as Sh20.

They are also believed to be of superior and unique quality compared to locally produced apparels.

China is the top source market with others being Canada, the UK, Pakistan, the US, Poland, Germany and the UAE.

In 2019, The country imported 185,000 tonnes of used clothing, equivalent to 8,000 containers. This was up from 177,000 tonnes the previous year.

Approximately two million Kenyans work in the mitumba market according to the port.

“The second-hand clothing industry is likely to remain a continuing source of employment, tax revenues and wealth creation," said Anuja Prashar, author of the report.

This, she however said can only be realised as long as national governments provide a competitive operating environment that is conducive to the sector’s long-term development

She is a lecturer at KCA University and founder APP Consulting which focuses on promoting increased cultural awareness and understanding.


WATCH: The biggest news in African Business
WATCH: The latest videos from the Star