Distress as traders unable to export 2.3m tonnes of hides, skins over tax

Hides and skins traders at Kilimo House  [George Njunge, Standard]
Raw hides and skins traders yesterday claimed they have been unable to sell over 2.3 million tonnes of hides and skins, citing an 80 per cent export tax they described as punitive.
The traders camped at Kilimo House in Nairobi on Monday seeking an audience with Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai but left at around 5 pm without seeing him.
Torome Keresheu, a trader who had travelled from Narok, said the 80 per cent tax slapped on the product was killing the industry and hurting farmers. “The tanneries are taxed at 20 per cent, we are taxed at 80 per cent.
We do the donkey work, therefore, the tannery owners are enjoying our sweat. We want the Government to reverse this percentage.
 ”This industry is the third-biggest foreign exchange earner after coffee and tea, and a flagship in Vision 2030, yet it has been forsaken by the people who should protect it,” he said. The traders requested for a six-month export waiver of raw hides and skins to reduce their “rotting” stock.

Torome said that when President Uhuru Kenyatta was Finance minister in
2012/2013, he set aside Sh175 million for the establishment of six mini-tanneries across the country. Kennedy Karuri from Uasin Gichu claimed the hides and skins industry had been infiltrated by cartels who were misleading the Government on policy formulation.

“Their selfish interests have affected us very much. The impact is huge and we don’t have anywhere to sell our hides and skins,” he said.

 Mr Karuri claimed that the importation of cheap synthetic materials had further pushed them to the edge. ”The Government should stop this importation as it is negatively affecting a chain of Kenyans from farmers in far-flung areas to butchers and now hides and skin traders.

We have over 10 million Kenyans who depend directly or indirectly on this chain,” he said. Clare Namurembo, another trader, said they were suffering because they were unable to service their loans. Government officials have argued in the past that the levy is meant to encourage value addition and to cushion the local leather industry.

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Raw hidesexport taxKilimo House