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Glove industry gains as demand surges due to COVID-19

It has increased three times over the normal consumption, but manufactures are unable to meet the requirement as it is difficult to raise capacity in a short time; There are 28 glove manufacturing units in India, half of which are in Kerala

June 30, 2021 / 05:37 PM IST
Representative image of a man's hands with nitrile gloves on. (Source: ShutterStock)

Representative image of a man's hands with nitrile gloves on. (Source: ShutterStock)

COVID-19 has given an opportunity to the Indian glove industry to ramp up capacity and produce more pieces, even as many other industries are still reeling under the impact of the pandemic.

Glove manufacturers have been working overtime since the outbreak of the pandemic to meet the rush of orders.

Heavy demand for gloves, globally, has curtailed cheaper imports to India, thus helping even the smaller units to make some gains.

Better prices

Gloves are now fetching better prices in the international market as well as in India.

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``The demand has increased three times over the normal consumption. We are getting a lot of enquiries from Europe, but are unable to meet the requirement as we can’t raise capacity in a short time,’’ said Antony Kurian, Managing Director (MD) of Lenora Glove, which produces four lakh pieces a day, the majority of which are sold in India.

South East Asia, particularly Malaysia, is the global hub of glove manufacturing. Huge volume business enables Malaysia to cut production costs and export gloves at lower rates.

Dumping exports

As a result of the dumping of cheaper examination gloves from abroad, many Indian units have been focusing on surgical gloves, which provide better margins.

There has been a change in the scenario after the pandemic. ``As the demand surged and latex prices increased, countries like Malaysia had to hike up the price of the gloves. Instead of Rs 1.50 to 2 per piece, the rate has reached Rs 4 for an imported glove, which is at par or slightly less than Indian prices,’’ pointed out Kurian.

There are 28 glove manufacturing units in India, of which half are in Kerala as it is the largest producer state of rubber latex, the main raw material for the gloves.

New factories

Seeing the rise in demand, the Rubber Board, a statutory body constituted by the Government of India, has been receiving enquiries for starting new factories, especially in north India. Many existing factories have opted for capacity expansion.

Besides, the units that had found manufacture of examination gloves unviable due to heavy competition, resumed their production encouraged by better prices and lower imports.

Glove manufacturers have benefitted from the better prices.

Said Joseph Perera, MD of Primus Gloves Pvt. Ltd., a unit in the Cochin Special Economic Zone: ``The surgical glove prices have gone up by 20 percent to Rs 12 per piece. The prices of examination gloves have increased by over two times to Rs 4.50. The price increase that came into effect last year may be sustained this year too as the pandemic has not gone away fully. But it may taper off next year.’’

Centrifuged rubber latex producers may benefit

The centrifuged rubber latex producers too could reap benefits from the surge in glove demand. ``Latex prices increased by $300 a ton early this year in the world market. But in the last couple of months, the prices have dropped. The domestic market also absorbed significant quantities,’’ said M T Thomas, MD of Thomson Rubber (India).

In India, latex prices increased by Rs 100 in a year to reach around Rs 214 per kg in May. Gloves account for 15 percent of the total latex produced in the country.

Glove exports, however, have slowed down in the past few months. ``It is because the US is not active as a buyer. The US is the biggest market for gloves and the country is sitting on a huge stock purchased in the previous months,’’ observed Joseph Perera.



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PK Krishnakumar is a journalist based in Kochi.
first published: Jun 30, 2021 05:37 pm
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