Exports ban ties hands of N95 mask producers


NEW DELHI: Indian manufacturers of the N95 respirators masks are in a bind, with the government banning exports in anticipation of an increase in domestic demand due to the coronavirus scare.

There are only two companies in India that manufacture these N95 respirators that have largely been exported for industrial usage to countries in Europe, the Middle East and the US for the last 20-25 years.

Indians are using these as a preventive measure against the virus. But the prospects of Venus Safety and Magnum Medicare to cash in on the opportunity has been stumped by India’s decision to ban their shipments.


Mahesh Kudav, managing director of Venus Safety & Health, India’s top selling firm in personal protective equipment, said, “People who need masks are healthcare workers who are being coughed on by patients and people in close proximity to patients. The N95 masks originally are used by people working in industrial sectors like automobiles, factories, roads. General public does not need to wear these masks.”

India put a ban on the exports of personal protective equipment, including surgical masks, gloves and N95 respirators. However, on February 8, it lifted the restriction on gloves and surgical masks, but continued with the ban on N95 respirators that has left the manufacturers in a quandary.

Magnum Medicare director Rakesh Bhagat said the government decision to put restrictions on the shipment of these masks had left the company high and dry. “To be able to get export orders, we spend a lot of money participating in exhibitions, etc., and we are suffering because of the government’s decision. These masks are good for chemical and petroleum sectors and hence banning their export doesn’t help anyone.”

“There were export commitments made prior to the coronavirus outbreak and export orders received from corporate headquarters of international MNCs based in India for their various locations, since China has stropped supplying or is in the spring holiday season,” said the Safety Appliances Manufacturers Association in a letter to the government, a copy of which ET has seen.

Export-driven business is struggling due to the ban, Kudav said, adding: “Industry is our regular customer, and we do 65-70% export.”

“Prices of N95 masks have skyrocketed. We are seeing a shortage of surgical masks too,” All India Chemists and Distributors Association president Kailash Gupta said.

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