Textile manufacturers, governors oppose plans to import duty free fabric

Cotton farmers in Homa Bay County have resorted to growing Bt cotton for higher yields. [James Omoro, Standard]

Governors and textile manufacturers from 24 cotton-growing counties have raised concern over the government’s plan to import duty-free fabric. 

They fear this will cripple the textile industry and devastate cotton farmers, jeopardizing the progress made in reviving the sector. 

Homa Bay Governor Glady Wanga and her Busia counterpart Paul Otuoma said importing duty-free fabric will negatively impact farmers who are facing challenges including factory closures. 

With the revival of Rivatex, they argue that supporting farmers is crucial to ensure the availability of raw materials. 

“Importing duty-free fabric would erase all the progress we've made,” Governor Wanga said adding that, “It contradicts the bottom-up economic agenda's focus on creating jobs and empowering farmers.” 

Governor Otuoma said farmers are committed to supplying enough raw materials but require government support. 

Dr Otuoma called for for extension services to educate farmers on better practices and boost yields. 

“There's a vast market for cotton. Our challenge is to meet the textile industry's needs, create jobs, and alleviate poverty in our counties,” Wanga said.

Thika Cloth Mills Managing Director Tejal Dodhia warned of job losses due to reliance on imports. 

“Importing used clothes and fabrics hurts our local industries,” she said.

“Duty-free fabric leaves farmers and textile workers jobless. We must embrace the 'Buy Kenya, Build Kenya' spirit,” she added.

Dodhia said Thika Cloth Mills' was providing high-yielding, superior-quality BT cotton seeds to farmers. 

Rivatex Managing Director Thomas Kipkurgat said modernisation of the facility was 98 per cent complete and the new machinery is expected to increase capacity and product quality. 

Kipkurgat revealed Rivatex's high cotton demand, urging stakeholders and farmers to reject fabric imports and join the value chain.

“Cotton is our primary raw material,” he said. “95 per cent of our products are 100 per cent cotton. I urge everyone to oppose duty-free fabric imports we can produce ourselves.”

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