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Traders count loses as border remains shut over COVID-19

By Renson Mnyamwezi | May 20th 2020
Tanzania President John Magufuli (R) and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta

The shutting down of the porous Kenya-Tanzania border by President Uhuru Kenyatta to control the spread of Covid-19 infections from her neighbour has caused fast economic ramifications in Taita Taveta County.

Traders from both sides while welcoming the move as a quick measure in taming the virus spread also noted that the action would weigh on their businesses negatively.

Kenyans at the border in Taveta Sub-County mostly depend on agricultural products from the Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania.

“We have been getting agricultural and horticultural products from Tanzania. But after the closure of the border four days ago we are not getting cereals like maize and beans including avocados, oranges and onions among other farm products. I have no job now,” noted Mercy Mucheru, a trader at Taveta open-air market.

“I no longer get oranges and passion fruits from Tanzania. The closure of the border has rendered me jobless, “the trader said on Tuesday.

Other traders interviewed also said the closure has caused a shortage of farm products and rise in food prices of cereals among other commodities in the area. A section of traders has resorted to sourcing for the same in neighbouring Makueni and Kajiado Counties.

“We used to buy a kilo of onions at between Sh 90 and Sh 140 in Taveta town but now we are buying the same at Emaili town at Sh 200,” said Mcharo, a trader in Wundanyi town.

Kenyans have also been buying sweet potatoes, sunflower, second-hand clothes, shoes and Vitenges among others in Tanzania.

Other people interviewed by Standard said Tanzania is the hardest hit by the closure saying about 90 per cent of industrial products like metal come from Kenya. A part from industrial products, Tanzanians have been buying sugar, fuel, salt, soaps and vegetable oil from Kenya, said a trader identified as Gibran.

The closure will also help to effectively deal with illegal cross-border sugar, fuel, gemstones and Sandalwood trade deals at the border, noted the Taveta town trader.

“The closure of the border has also badly affected us in one way or the other because there are products we have to source from Kenya,” added Elena Matonza, a Tanzania trader in Taveta border town.

Trade Executive Getrude Shuwe and the County Government Spokesman Dennis Onsarigo said closure of the border has affected the economy of the county residents. The executive however noted the county government is yet to quantify the loss. “We are yet to get the effects of the closure of the border because it was implemented just three days ago. We will give a comprehensive report on the same later,” responded Ms Shuwe.

Onsarigo noted despite the fact that the closure has affected the local economy; the measures taken by the President are justified. “The President does not want Kenyans to die of the viral disease. The measures have been taken for the good of the country despite having its economic implications. We will be quantifying the economic loss later,” responded Onsarigo.

The county has so far reported two cases of Covid-19.The closure comes at a time when more cases that are positive continue to be reported in border towns.

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