A week after banning export of all personal protection equipment, including clothing and masks as part of India's preparedness to face new coronavirus threat, the government has slightly tweaked the notification to allow the export of surgical masks and gloves, except synthetic rubber ones, from the list of banned items.
The corrective action came on January 8 after the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) realised the Harmonised System (HS) Codes that came under the export prohibition order included a large variety of items that are meant for general or non-medical purposes also. The loose classification of HS Codes, which allows a vast number of products getting exported and imported to and from the country, has been troubling the government for a while now.
While the corrective action will ensure the gloves and mask consignments that are lying at various ports get cleared by the customs, the broad nature of HS Code description may see more complaints coming in, in the coming days.
It was on January 31 that the DGFT amended the export policy to prohibit the export of products under six specific HS Codes. The notification stated the government was banning the export of all varieties of personal protection equipment. These included clothing and masks used to protect wearer from air-borne particles and any other respiratory masks or personal protective clothing like coveralls (Class 2/3/4 and N95 masks) with immediate effect until further orders.
The description of codes -- ophthalmic instruments and appliances, instruments and appliances of medical science, breathing appliances and gas masks, articles of plastics, parts of garments of clothing and accessories and other made up articles -- allowed export of unintended items also getting bunched into the prohibited list.
The notification on February 8 thus permitted export of surgical or disposable masks (2/3 ply) and all gloves except NBR (synthetic rubber) gloves. Overall, the items covered under these six HS codes were worth $1.3 billion exports in 2018-19. Between April-December 2019-20, India exported $966.54 million worth of goods in these categories.