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Kenya eases textile import restrictions

Textile recyclers have welcomed a new protocol from the Kenyan government that allows the resumption of imports of used clothing and shoes.

Restrictions on imports of used clothing (known locally as ‘mitumba’) were put in place in March amid ministers’ concerns over the spread of Covid-19.

That prompted lobbying from the UK’s Textiles Recycling Association (TRA), the Bureau of International Recycling and other organisations, which sought to prove scientifically that such imports were safe and trade should recommence.

The new protocol provides information on what Kenya considers to be best practice on the importation and sale of used textiles and shoes and how supply chain operators should conduct their operations whilst ensuring the health and safety of the sellers, importers, wholesalers and buyers.

Alan Wheeler, director of the TRA, calls publication of the protocol ‘a very significant development’.

He adds, ‘Whilst we have been working behind the scenes to engage in conversations with the Kenyan authorities to seek solutions that are mutually beneficial, I think much credit has to be given to the recently formed Mitumba Association of Kenya, who have made seemingly excellent representations to their Government and have some really encouraging proposals to help develop their industry and give it the recognition and credibility it deserves.’

Writing in the markets section of the July/August issue of Recycling International, Wheeler had said it would be ‘a tremendous boost’ if Kenya were to open its markets again and said there was ‘a faint glimmer of hope’ that the Kenyan trade ministry was considering a new protocol.

Wheeler believes the formation of the new association in the country demonstrates how the voice of traders can be made stronger and more persuasive through the formation of recognised trade associations.

‘We would encourage traders in other countries to look at what has been achieved in Kenya, with a view to forming their own association in their country if one currently does not exist,’ says Wheeler.

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