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Government lifts ban on export of non-medical, non-surgical masks

India’s self-reliance in producing personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and N-95 masks has been growing recently

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) on Saturday amended its earlier notifications to allow export of non-medical and non-surgical masks made up of cotton, silk, wool and knitted materials. However, export of all medical and surgical masks will remain prohibited.

Through two notifications dated 31 January and 19 March, the government had banned export of all kinds of masks to avoid any shortage of masks in the country at a time covid-19 outbreak had started gaining momentum.

Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) chairman A Sakthivel said there is a huge opportunity for Indian apparel manufacturers for export of such masks. “There is a huge demand for the export of these products and the AEPC has already identified the international markets for these non-medical and non-surgical masks. The Council assures the Government that it will ensure exports of these items to the tune of $1 billion within the next three months," he added.

India’s merchandise exports plunged 60.3% and imports fell 58.7% resulting in a trade deficit of $6.8 billion as countries sealed their borders to arrest the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, data released by the commerce ministry on Friday showed. Of the 30 major exporting items, only iron ore (17.5%) and pharmaceuticals (0.25%) recorded positive growth in April.

India’s self-reliance in producing personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and N-95 masks have been growing recently. Prime minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation Tuesday said: “When the Corona crisis started, there was not a single PPE kit made in India. The N-95 masks were produced in small quantity in India. Today we are in a situation to produce 2 lakh PPE and 2 lakh N-95 masks daily. We were able to do this because India turned this crisis into an opportunity."

DGFT earlier this month allowed export of all sanitisers except alcohol-based hand sanitisers amid heightened demand for the product during the covid-19 pandemic. The government has been calibrating its directions on export of crucial materials like personal protective equipment, drugs like paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine, sanitisers, among others to ensure adequate availability of these products in India.

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