Delays in fulfilling orders were cited on Tuesday as the chief reason for Kenya's inability to take greater advantage of its apparel industry's duty-free access to the US market.
Jas Bedi, the head of Kenya's Export Promotion Council, told a Washington audience that it takes an average of 135 days for goods to be delivered to US buyers from the time they place an order in Kenya.
"That's too long in today's market," Mr Bedi said. China can fulfil orders from US purchasers in as little as 45 days, he noted. The 75 days it takes for fabric from Asia to reach manufacturers in Kenya accounts for most of the lag in delivery of finished products to the US, Mr Bedi pointed out.
The varieties of fabrics needed to keep pace with rapidly changing demands are not made available to Kenyan factories in a timely manner, he said.
Shortening the supply chain would enable Kenyan manufacturers to reap greater gains through the US preferential trade programme known as Agoa, Mr Bedi suggested.
Some 40,000 Kenyans currently hold Agoa-related jobs, according to the US trade agency.
With $340 million in textile and apparel sales to the US last year, Kenya ranks as the top supplier in that sector.
Agoa is set to expire in 2025.