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Surge in secondhand underwear trade despite ban

Trade of secondhand underwear has grown sharply in Gikomba market despite an existing government ban slapped on the commodities.

Importers say bales of undergarments per container have increased five-fold.

According to the importers who own warehouses in Gikomba market, sale of brassieres, panties and boxers have risen from two bales per container to 10 bales per container.

“Bales of underwear are fast moving compared to those of general ladies and menswear. I had six from my latest consignment that landed last week and now I have none of the bales,” said James Agumba, an importer.

They attribute the increased supply to the recent ban of secondhand undergarments in Tanzania. They claim Tanzanian traders are using proxies to buy and export the garments to Tanzania by road.

Tanzania banned the importation and sale of secondhand underwear in January this year.

“We are working with a lot of Tanzanians here who are our main clients. They buy the bails in wholesale and sell some of the clothes in our open market here,” Mr Agumba added.

No effects on prices

The glut of secondhand underwear in the market has strangely not affected prices of the garments.

“We are still selling the bras, panties and boxers at the normal retail prices that range at Sh200 even with the increased numbers of imports,” said Muvea Matolo a retailer at Gikomba market.

He added that customers prefer secondhand underwear due to their low prices and unique design.

Influx of traders

For the Tanzanian traders doing business in Gikomba, the ban in their country has forced them to venture into Kenya’s mitumba market.

“Mitumba clothes are now being phased out of the Tanzanian market, and though we take some open bales from Kenya to Tanzania, they don’t sale much,” added another trader who sought anonymity.

Most Tanzanian traders who do not have work permits collaborate with Kenyan importers to handle all imports and sale to them at a wholesale price.