India is now very well self-reliant in PPE manufacturing and the Indian Government has allowed export of PPE with the limit of 5 million (50 lakh) pieces per month. Indian PPE manufacturers have enough capacity of PPE, as India is making around 8 lakh pieces of the same per day. Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal termed it as boosting ‘Make in India’ exports. But the industry is divided on this decision of having a limit. While many PPE manufacturers are of the view that this limit was not required at all, some of them and few industry experts have welcomed the decision. Apparel Resources explored both the aspects and found out that the Government decision is in the right direction this time around.
Coronavirus cases are increasing in India, and in any case, Government would not like to take the chance of less supply in the country. At the same time, the Government is concerned about what if Indian companies could not supply the required products. Factories should follow proper guidelines regarding PPE manufacturing and India should get repeat PPE orders. This looks like to be a slow-building process. Capacities and opportunities need to move together.
In India, 8 lakh pieces of PPE are being manufactured daily, so on an average 2 crore pieces are produced monthly, and 25 per cent (50 lakhs) are allowed for export. If India’s experience remains good with the PPE export, it can be easily increased any time.
Having enough capacity and proper infrastructure are both different things, and in case of PPE manufacturing, infrastructure is highly important. Time and again, it has been maintained that following necessary guidelines and quality standards is the most important aspect in PPE manufacturing.
And one should not forget that just a month back, the Government of India enterprise HLL Lifecare Limited had stopped taking supply of body coveralls from suppliers across India. Reason for the same was quality issues. 95 companies are supplying PPE coveralls to HLL. What if similar things happen at the export front? After all, from proper hygiene conditions to other required parameters for PPE manufacturing which are must for export are not easy to maintain!
Also Read: What goes into making a body coverall?
Some industry experts feel that Indian companies should collaborate with global leaders. Dr. SK Sundararaman, Chairman, Indian Technical Textiles Association, said “India should talk to the global giants of PPE like Lakeland, Cardinal, 3M and Honeywell. Without their intervention and stepping into India to join hands with the exporters here, India will not be part of the global PPE roadmap.”
Even leading manufacturers strongly believe that there is a strong need to transform the mindset. Gautam Nair, Executive Committee Member, AEPC and MD of Matrix Clothing, said “Apparel manufacturers cannot look at manufacturing PPE kits as a by-product to be done when you have open capacities available. You need to transform your mindset and facilities as per the requirements of medical textiles.”
Compliance is one of the most critical issues in apparel export, especially to the US, the EU and other such developed countries. And when it comes to the issue of PPE export, rules and the overall process are very strict. Recently, China had gained a bad image due to the export of poor quality PPE… so it is evident that the export of PPE is directly related to the image of a nation. Apart from few good exporters, how many PPE manufacturers have compliant units?
There are around 700 PPE manufacturers in India. In discussion with Apparel Resources, some of them accepted that they still don’t have the required approvals to export PPE. And it will take at least 1 to 2 weeks to get the necessary clearance and certification to start the process for exports.
As far as quota management is concerned, only applications for export of ‘PPE medical coveralls for COVID-19’ filled from 1st to 3rd day of each month will be considered for the quota of that month. And approvals/allocations will be done by the 10th of every month. Indian agencies have the long experience of managing quota, so one should not worry about the ethical practices regarding quota. And in this critical phase, everyone is highly concerned and it is very difficult to foul play in quota management.
On the other hand, DGFT and the Ministry of Commerce have to look at other aspects of allied products like 3-ply surgical masks, N95 masks and non-woven fabrics.
A chunk of industry has also reiterated to open the export of 3-ply surgical masks, as they have orders from overseas and claim that there is no significant demand of the same in the Indian domestic market. Industry stalwarts are repeatedly requesting to the Government to lift the export ban on N95 masks, as it is the need of the hour. It is pertinent to mention here that a single mask manufacturing machine can manufacture one lakh pieces per day and as per AEPC, India has more than 200 such machines. Therefore, N95 masks should be opened up immediately for exports without any restrictions on quantities.
3-ply and N95 masks have surplus stock in India and most of the orders of the same are diverted to China. Similarly, as per the industry experts, the fabric production to make coveralls has also reached 20,00,000 metres (2 million metres) per day. Non-woven fabric (HSN 5603) has only 20 per cent use in PPE and rest 80 per cent is in other applications. So, the export of these items should be allowed immediately.
No doubt, Indian companies have shown tremendous and quick progress in PPE manufacturing and India is capable enough to supply bulk demand, but looking at the overall conditions, the Government’s decision of export with limit seems quite right, and one should hope that if things remain positive, this limit will be enhanced further.