The government had in March banned 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.
With India's surplus face mask capacity choking production lines, the medical device industry has asked the government to lift the ban on export of non-N95 masks to help manufacturers clear unsold inventories and resume production at full capacity.
The government had in March banned 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. Last month, it allowed export of non-medical and non-surgical masks made of cotton, silk, wool and knitted materials but export of all medical and surgical masks remained prohibited.
With manufacturers ramping up production of face masks since the outbreak of COVID-19, India has turned into a surplus nation choking production lines.
"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 to the government.
The capacity with manufacturers is more than enough to cater to the domestic requirement.
"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," it wrote.
India, according to the association, has a production capacity of 1.5 billion three-layer masks and after accounting for domestic demand, the surplus capacity is 532.03 million.
Out of a manufacturing capacity of 59.4 million pieces of four-layer masks, 1.9 million is spare capacity. Similarly, the country has 5.05 million surplus capacity of reusable/washable masks. It has a production capacity of 31.2 million pieces of N95 masks, of which 1.05 million is surplus, it said.
It listed 43 leading manufacturers of face masks in the country and detailed their production capacity and surplus.
"There is also additional capacity being added with... imported machines. There may be other manufacturers not listed with us," the association wrote.It sought the intervention of the chairman of the Empowered Committee of Essential Medical Equipment and secretary, Department of Pharmaceuticals for opening up the exports of surgical masks to balance supply and demand as well as for India to emerge as the second country in the world for masks after China.