Extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) will not make any major impact in Kenya if the government continues to ignore cotton growing. The sector will help provide the much needed raw materials for garment makers.
The government has, therefore, been urged to support the cotton sector locally to enable the country reap full benefits of the market deal.
The chairman of the Garments Manufacturers Association, Mombasa chapter, Mr Thomas Puthoor, said that if they continue importing raw materials, access to American markets under the pact will only benefit countries supplying such input and not Africa.
Under the agreement passed by Congress in 2001 and which has been extended to 2015, African producers have preferential access to the US, the world’s biggest consumer.
“We need to build capacity and be able to produce our own cotton and fabric, which will not only increase our speed to supply markets in America, but will also create employment,” said Mr Puthoor, who is also the managing director of Kapric Apparels.
Currently, garment manufacturers import fabric mainly from India and China, countries that also compete with Africa for the lucrative American clothing industry.
It takes about 150 days for a Kenyan manufacturer to supply products to American markets from the time of ordering fabric to delivery of finished products. If raw materials are secured locally, the period would be cut by almost half to 60 days, said Mr Puthoor.
Lack of incentives for producers, high production costs and red tape are among challenges that have stifled growth of the industry, he added.
Little to show
The official said that despite the country benefiting from the Agoa arrangement for about 10 years now, little has been done to enable Kenya produce its own fabric.
“If you consider that two years ago there were 44 garment manufacturers most of which have shut down leaving about 10, then you should know there is a problem here that needs to be fixed if we seriously want to benefit from Agoa,” Mr Puthoor said.