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TRA calm over UK impact of Ugandan ban on used clothing imports

The Textile Recycling Association (TRA) has said that any move by Uganda to ban the import of used clothing into the country will have a minimal impact on the UK market. 

The second hand clothing market is a big employer in Uganda, but the government has repeatedly said it hits domestic production (picture: Shutterstock)

Earlier this week, the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, announced in a speech he will ban the import of used clothing into the country from Friday (1 September), as part of efforts to boost the local textile manufacturing trade.

This caused some concerns in the sector as the vast majority of waste textiles in the UK from textile banks or charity shops are sorted by textile recyclers and then exported to other countries. Africa is the largest importing continent, taking in around three quarters of all waste textiles, with previous suggestions that around 15% of used clothing exports in the UK go to East African countries.

Indirect

However, Alan Wheeler, chief executive of the TRA, has moved to allay and fears this could impact prices.

He pointed to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity which showed that in 2021, imports from the UK accounted for just 0.14% of the total amount of textiles imported into Uganda, with a value of £69,000 using today’s exchange rates.

Alan Wheeler is chief executive of the Textile Recycling Association

Mr Wheeler said: “The Textile Recycling Association has become aware of proposals announced to introduce a ban on imports of used clothing into Uganda, whilst we will continue to advocate the free trade of good quality used clothing which employs tens of millions of people around the world and is 70 times better for the environment than buying new clothing, this ban will have very little direct impact on the UK used clothing industry. In 2021 the UK only accounted for 0.14% of all imports of used clothing into Uganda. More than half of Uganda’s used clothing by value came from China (33.6%) and India (24.3%) in that year according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity.

He added: “Personally I would be surprised if this proposal results in a lengthy ban on imports of used clothing into Uganda.  Even if it does, the impact on the UK used clothing industry would mainly be indirect in nature as businesses in China and India in particular try to find alternative markets in other countries.”

Ban

The Ugandan government has moved to ban the import of used clothing into the country on numerous occasions in the past, so it is hoped by some that the ban will not come to fruition.

With many dependent on the used clothing market for both goods and employment, the president has been under pressure to backtrack on the move, as seen on Ugandan news channel NTV below.

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