India may allow export of N-95 masks

Economy


NEW DELHI: The government may allow the export of N-95 masks.

The textiles ministry is closely watching the supply situation in the country to ensure that there is no shortage of N-95 masks in case export curbs are lifted, according to a government official. “We are considering opening up exports because restriction is not a healthy policy. We will remove the restrictions as the situation here improves,” the official told ET.

Industry has also sought the removal of export restrictions, citing surplus capacity and its potential to produce 7 million N-95 masks daily. India is producing around 400,000-500,000 N-95 masks every day.

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Exports were banned in February amid the Covid-19 pandemic even as the government gradually removed restrictions on most personal protective equipment (PPE), including clothing and masks used in healthcare activities where there is risk of contamination. However, medical coveralls of all classes, except surgical drapes, isolation aprons, surgical wraps and X-ray gowns; masks other than non-medical/non-surgical masks, and nitrile/NBR gloves are prohibited. “We are watching the situation now so that there is no shortage of N-95 masks here,” the official added.

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India has fixed a monthly export quota of 40 million units per month for 2/3 ply surgical masks and 2 million units per month for medical goggles, for the issuance of export licences to eligible applicants.
Industry has pitched for allowing exports as it fears business will go to competitors such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

“We now have the capacity to produce 2 crore 3-Ply masks and 70 lakh N-95 masks daily. There is more-than adequate capacity to meet domestic requirements. Since exports are not being allowed, the capacity is grossly underutilized, causing huge losses to manufacturers,” said Anshumali Jain, vice president of the Non-Woven Federation of India (NWFI), which represents regional associations of spun-bond non-woven fabric manufacturers and its products, including masks.

The association has requested the government to remove export restrictions and stop duty-free import of masks.



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