India has emerged the second largest supplier of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the world, within a short span of two months. This says a lot about the resilience of the Indian textile industry. At present, just 600 companies in the country are certified to manufacture PPEs. The numbers can increase exponentially, especially from southern India, which has been a hub for the manufacture of medical textiles in the country.
The world over too, countries are trying to achieve self-sufficiency in the manufacture of PPEs, as global supply chains have proved unreliable. As Indian manufacturers try to export PPEs, the industry bodies and the government will need to ensure that high quality, genuine, standard products are exported. The industry also has the opportunity to collaborate with various specialty chemical manufacturers and research organisations who are working towards further improving the functionality of PPEs to fight against Covid-19.
India manufactures 4.5 lakh PPE suits per day
Union Minister Smriti Irani announced on Twitter that India is now producing over 4.5 lakh Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits daily and that over 600 companies in the country are certified to manufacture PPEs. India started manufacturing PPE kits within two months of the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier, all PPE kits were imported.
Companies like Alok Industries, JCT Phagwara, Gokaldas Exports, and Aditya Birla are some of domestic PPE kits manufactures. Some government institutes like South India Textile Research Association (SITRA), Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) and Ordnance Factory Board are at the forefront of developing new technologies, materials, and testing facilities. DRDO has also developed new PU coated nylon/ polyester for supply to domestic manufacturers.
HLL Lifecare is the procurement agency for hospitals and healthcare organisations under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
All the states and UTs have been asked to ensure procurement which is being carried out at their level after following the prescribed testing for PPEs from the labs nominated by the MoT. In addition, manufacturers who have got their products qualified from these labs are also being on-boarded on Government e-Marketplace (GeM).
The manufacturers who have got PPEs qualified have been advised by the MoT to on-board on to the GeM so that the procurement by states can be carried out accordingly. For the private sector also, the dynamic information of manufacturers whose products have qualified the tests is available on the MoT website. “India has significantly ramped up its domestic production capacity of PPEs and N95 masks, and the requirements of the states and UTs are being sufficiently met. Today, the country is producing more than three lakh PPEs and N95 masks per day,” the ministry said. It said that states and UTs as well as central Institutions have been provided with around 111.08 lakh N95 masks and around 74.48 lakh PPEs.
Bengaluru is manufacturing 50% of PPE kits in India
The production capacity of PPE coveralls in India has been ramped up to one lakh per day with half of the production taking place in Bangalore, the Ministry of Health informed. PPEs are a set of protective clothes which enable frontline workers like doctors, nurses and paramedics to look after Covid-19 patients despite the disease being highly contagious. The set includes face masks, gowns, gloves, goggles, headgear, etc. which provides a complete coverall to the person’s body and prevents infections despite close proximity with the diseased. “Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Department of Pharmaceuticals, and Ministry of Textiles are continuously working with various industry bodies, stakeholders and manufacturers to streamline the supply chain, remove bottlenecks and maintain a steady supply of all materials required for the healthcare professionals,” an official statement said. Bangalore has emerged as the hub for PPE production. Besides Bangalore, Tirupur, Chennai and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat, Phagwara and Ludhiana in Punjab, Kusumnagar and Bhiwandi in Maharashtra, Dungarpur in Rajasthan, Kolkata, Delhi, Noida, Gurugram and few other places are also manufacturing PPE coveralls at approved production units. On March 2, the health ministry finalised the technical requirements based on the availability of materials and the technical requirement for the best protection of healthcare professionals who deal with Covid-19 cases.
The synthetic blood penetration or splash resistance test is a synthetic blood resistance test to determine a product’s ability to act as a barrier to blood-borne pathogens. The test is conducted on PPE coveralls and certification for the body coveralls is carried out in four facilities across the country. These are South Indian Textile Research Association (SITRA), Coimbatore, Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), Gwalior and two laboratories under Ordnance Factory Board -Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi and Small Arms Factory, Kanpur.
India likely to produce 2 crore PPE by June end
As India’s manufacturing capacity for PPE ramps up, it is estimated that the projected requirement of 2 crore body coveralls (PPEs) will be met by June end. So far, around 50 lakh PPEs have been manufactured and another 50 lakh are expected to be ready by the end of this month. Around 1 crore PPEs are expected to be manufactured over June, according to information available with the textiles ministry.
PPE makers pitch for resumption of exports
Manufacturers of masks, rubber gloves and PPE coveralls have urged the government to resume exports. They feel that there is adequate domestic production capacity and they run the risk of losing buyers in large markets such as the US and Europe.
“Manufacturers in India have the capacity to produce several crores of face masks and coveralls every day. There will be no shortage in the domestic market if exports are allowed. In fact, we will be able to cash in on the increased global demand for the products as buyers in Europe and other countries in the West do not want to buy from China because of the Covid-19 situation,” according to Salil Goyal from Nufab Technical Textiles Pvt Ltd.
Goyal said that associations of technical textile producers had already petitioned the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) to restart exports of all kinds of masks and PPEs as the Covid-19 pandemic had also led to an increase in demand globally.
Tapping new markets
“We were already exporting to the US, Afghanistan, Malaysia, the Philippines and several South American countries. Right now, there is a lot of interest from new buyers because many countries want to move away from China, and we have to cash in on that,” Goyal said.
With the Textiles Ministry encouraging garments and textiles manufacturers to get into the production of PPE and masks, the supply situation in the domestic market has further improved, a government official pointed out. “Garments and textiles manufacturing units have now started importing the required machinery, mostly from China, and many of them have started producing masks and PPEs,” the official said.
RFB Latex Ltd, a unit in the Noida SEZ manufacturing latex gloves, has sought the government’s permission to export ‘NBR’ gloves, which is a prohibited item, made from imported raw material.
In its representation to the Board of Approval for SEZs, the company pointed out that due to the prohibition on export of NBR gloves, it was unable to serve the large customer base in the US, Europe and South America, developed over the last 30 years. If it failed to deliver, it may lose its customers forever to competitors in China, Malaysia and Vietnam who have now re-started exports in full swing and are even expanding capacities. The unit further said that it would continue to meet the demand of the Indian government on a priority basis.