India surfeit in face mask production, permit exports: Indian Medical Device Industry

ST Staff
Sunday, 7 June 2020

India has a production capacity of 1.5 billion three-layer masks and has a surplus capacity of approximately 532.03 million after meeting the domestic requirements.


Amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide, facemasks have become the most essential need for the citizens, urging the facemask manufacturers to increase the production of masks. As a result of this, there has been an upsurge in the production of the face mask in India, affecting the production lines. 

The medical device industry has requested the government to uplift the ban of non-N95 masks exportation to provide assistance to the manufacturers in clearing out the inventories that haven’t been sold out yet and restart production operations at full volume. 

Since many of the products are not sold; not only has the production been reduced but also there has been a major imbalance in the chains of demand and supply, leading to a severe downfall in the business.

In March, the government had restricted the export of masks to elude any kind of shortage the country might face when the coronavirus pandemic started wreaking havoc. Last month, the export of non-medical and non-surgical masks stitched out of cotton, wool, silk and knitted fabrics was permitted. But the government did not allow the export of any kind of medical and surgical masks.

India has transformed into a nation producing surplus masks, blocking the production lines as the manufacturers gradually progressed in facemask production. "We request you to kindly intervene for opening up exports of surgical three-layer masks other than N95/N95 respirator masks as currently we have surplus capacity lying with manufacturers," the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry wrote in a letter to the government.

The potentiality and power of the manufacturers to serve for domestic purposes is more than enough. "These manufacturers are stopping or slowing down production since the last 15-20 days as they have unsold inventory and falling demand and falling market prices,” The letter said.

According to the association, India has a production capacity of 1.5 billion three-layer masks and has a surplus capacity of approximately 532.03 million after meeting the domestic requirements. 1.9 million additional capacity is there out of the manufacturing capacity of 59.4 million pieces of four-layer masks. 

Similar to this, the country also holds a 5.05 million surplus capacity of washable/ reusable masks. It also has a capacity of production of 31.2 million N-95 masks, out of which the surplus capacity is 1.05 million, it wrote.

A list of 43 top face mask manufacturers in the country has been prepared by the association. It has also included the details about their production and surplus capacity.

The association wrote, “There is also additional capacity being added with...imported machines. There may be other manufacturers not listed with us."

It had also requested the involvement of the Empowered Committee of Essential Medical Equipment’s chairman and also the secretary of the Pharmaceutical Department for allowing the export of surgical masks to have a supply and demand balance as the production was falling down including the market rates and demand. 

Having a balance would help to raise the production bars, rapidly speed up the production line and make sufficient use of the surplus production of masks. This would also help India to rise as the second nation in the world in terms of mask production after China which has contributed to half of the world’s face masks.

world’s face masks.

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