Covid-19 outbreak: Export of 5 million PPE suits a month on cards
The Centre is likely to allow the export of nearly five million personal protective equipment (PPE) suits a month, officials aware of the matter said, as India moves from not making enough suits to making more than it needs, and global demand remains strong.
The suits are critical in the fight against Covid-19, preventing infections, especially in high-risk health care settings.
The textile industry has been seeking permission for the exports citing PPE surpluses in the country and losses it has suffered because of the pandemic. A Clothes Manufacturing Association of India survey of around 1,000 factories in May found the industry’s mainstay--apparel sales--plummeted to a historic low of 84% because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown imposed in late March to check its spread.
PPE exports were stopped on January 31. This included all forms of protective equipment including suits made for firefighters and bulletproof jackets. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT )on Monday lifted the ban on various kinds of cloth masks that were prohibited in March. However, government officials maintain that the ban on medical equipment is also likely to be lifted soon.
Officials from the textile and commerce ministries met the cabinet secretary on Friday to discuss the proposal. “Nearly 50 lakh [five million] PPE suits will be allowed to be exported, to begin with,” said a government official familiar with the matter who asked not to be named. “The decision has been taken at the cabinet secretary-level. However, final orders will be issued by the commerce ministry.”
A textile ministry official said several rounds of discussions between different stakeholders have taken place and the decision for allowing the exports is likely to made official before the end of the week.
Textile ministry officials acknowledged the PPE production has reached surplus levels and the 20.2 million PPE suits that the government placed orders for in March have been supplied. They said there will be restrictions on the quantum of exports. “We will keep a close watch on the numbers to ensure there is no shortage for our country,” added the textile ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Officials added manufacturers will have to comply with international standards and acquire all required certifications to make sure their products are up to the mark.
South India Mills Association President K Selvaraju said there is no market presently for garments or knitwear and that textile companies have been requesting the government to allow them to export PPE kits. He added they have reached a point where they can produce nearly 10 million kits a month.
A member of the textile association who asked not to be named , said it would be “surprising if too many PPE suits were exported”.