The government is mulling lifting the ban on the export of N95 masks as India's surplus face mask capacity chokes production lines. The textile ministry is closely watching the supply situation so that there's is no shortage of masks when export curbs get lifted.
The ministry is "considering opening up exports because restriction is not a health policy," an official told the Economic Times, adding that "we will remove the restriction as the situation here improves."
Moreover, the medical device industry has also sought to remove restrictions on the export of masks to help manufacturers clear unsold inventories and resume production at full capacity. The industry said it has the potential to produce 70 lakh N-95 masks every day. At present, India is manufacturing around four to five lakh masks daily.
The government had in March banned the export of all kinds of masks to avoid any shortage in the country at a time when the COVID-19 outbreak had started gaining momentum. In May, it allowed the export of non-medical and non-surgical masks made of cotton, silk, wool, and knitted materials.
However, the export of surgical drapes, surgical wraps, X-ray gowns, isolation aprons, nitrile/NBR gloves, and medical and surgical masks remained prohibited.
The country has fixed monthly export quota of 4 crore units per month for 2/3 ply surgical masks and 20 lakh units per month for medical goggles, for the issuance of export licenses to eligible applicants, according to the news report.
The textile industry has pitched for exports in order to compete with Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India has become an export surplus nation in the manufacturing of N-95 face masks, PPE kits, and ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of 74th Independence Day, he added, "From just one corona testing lab, India now has 1,400 labs".
Also, a few days back, the Union Health Ministry stated that the government has distributed more than 3.04 crore N-95 masks and over 1.28 crore personal protection equipment (PPE) kits among the states, Union territories, and central institutions for free since March 11.
In addition, 22,533 "Make in India" ventilators have been delivered to various states, Union territories, and central institutions.