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New Delhi: In a fresh order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday, the government moved to expand the definition of groceries—to include a range of personal hygiene goods—a move that is likely to bring relief for makers of fast moving consumer goods that can now ensure availability of such items in the market.

In its order, the MHA also authorized the transportation of all goods—without distinguishing them as essential and non-essential, as it moves to ease the flow of goods to millions of Indians stuck at home during the country's 21-day lockdown. "With the issue of 1st addendum, transportation of all goods, without distinction of essential and non-essential, have been allowed," the order said.

The order further clarified that groceries include hygiene products such has hand-washes, soap, disinfectants, body wash, shampoos, detergents and tissue papers, toothpaste (oral care), sanitary pads and diapers, chargers, battery cells etc. Fast moving consumer goods companies had earlier sought clarification on what items include groceries, essential and non-essential goods.

Moreover, it also ensured smooth movement of the entire supply of milk collection and distribution—including its packaging material.

Sunday's orders will likely help ease the movement and production of personal hygiene products over and above the availability staples such as rice, pulses, wheat, and sugar.

The clarification follows persistent demands from major manufacturers of daily goods who have urged the government to ensure that supply chains of essential products remain intact amid the county's strict lockdown period. Companies had also warned of a possible shortage of supplies as they feared a disruption in availability of raw materials, lockdowns in warehouses, and restricted vehicle movement.

Packaged goods firm, Dabur India said the latest move will ease bottlenecks in manufacturing and movement of finished products.

“This eases some of the big bottlenecks that the industry was facing for movement of raw materials, packing materials and finished products. It would certainly help in kickstarting the functioning of the supply chain," Shahrukh Khan, Dabur India Ltd's executive director of operations said.

Fast moving consumer goods makers have been making representations to the government through various industry bodies. In its letter to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs on March 24th, CII had sought clarity on the meaning of groceries, and also urged the government to exclude manufacturers of hygiene products from any restrictions.

However, Khan added that despite the movement of such goods being eased, companies could still face an acute shortage of workers.

“With most workers either leaving for their hometowns or staying at home during the lockdown, it would be a challenge to ensure smooth functioning," he added.

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