Survival in the Tanzanian market for small tailors is increasingly becoming difficult due to the market being flooded with cheap imported secondhand clothing, popularly known as mitumba, The Citizen has learnt.
As a matter of fact, such cheap imports not only threaten small-time tailors in the country, but also adversely affects cotton farmers and the domestic textiles industry.
A pair of mtumba trousers that costs between Sh5,000 and Sh12,000 easily beats a new, locally-tailored piece which sells for between Sh15,000 and Sh25,000!
"Clothing material is relatively expensive - and in order for us to get some profit out of the business, we must raise our prices," says Mr Hassan Mohamed, a tailor at Ubungo-Kibangu in Dar es Salaam.
Mr Hassan added that the cost of making a shirt for an average-size adult is between Sh10,000 and Sh15,000 - also depending on the material used, and the style which the customer wants.
By comparison, the price of a mtumba shirt starts from as low as Sh2,000 - including such quality brands as 'Van Heusen, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Aeropostale, Lacoste' and 'Adidas!'
A mtumba buyer who spoke to The Citizen, Mr Hans Nicolas, praised imports of used clothes, saying "they are good fashioned, cheap - and they last long. Why should I go for locally-sewn piece, which invariably takes long to be finished, when there are cheaper mitumba clothes in all urban centres and markets?"
Tailors in Tanzania are struggling for a 'from hand to mouth' survival because their clothing market space has drastically been reduced by cheaper secondhand imports.
"Nowadays, we scrabble for a living mostly by repairing clothes, as we wait for festival periods like Christmas and the New Year when we get a smattering of orders for new clothes from a few old-fashioned customers," Mr Hassan lamented to The Citizen.
Imported secondhand clothes are sold in many places in Dar es Salaam like Congo Street, Kariakoo market, as well as the Karume and Manzese open markets, the 'Big Brother' near the Urafiki factory, Ubungo, Mbagala - and more other places, including peripatetic vendors.