Coronavirus pandemic: India frees up N-95 mask exports

New Delhi: India on Tuesday removed the restriction on the export of N-95/FFP2 masks making all kinds of masks freely exportable. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had on August 25 allowed their exports with a restriction that fixed the monthly export quota of 50 lakh units of N-95/FFP2 masks.

“The export policy of N-95/FFP-2 masks or its equivalent is amended from restricted to free category, making all types of masks freely exportable,” the DGFT said in a notification.

The country had in February banned exports of many medical textiles including clothing and masks used in healthcare activities where there is a risk of contamination, amid the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak but it gradually removed the export restrictions on most personal protection equipment (PPE). In August, DGFT had also removed the export restrictions on 2/3 ply surgical masks and medical coveralls by amending their export policy to ‘free’ from ‘restricted’.

With Tuesday’s notification, all restrictions on exports of medical textiles have been removed.

“India’s current production capacity for N-95 masks is 25 lakh per day with 110 Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS licensees),” said an official.

BIS also developed Covid standards for cover-all and ventilators and issued norms for grant of licence for N95 Masks, surgical masks, and eye protectors.

Industry had been pushing for free exports of masks as it feared business going to India’s competitors such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia and confident of meeting domestic demand. Besides pitching for a removal of the export restrictions, the Non-Woven Federation of India (NWFI), which represents regional associations of spun-bond nonwoven fabric manufacturers and its products, including masks, had also asked the government to stop duty-free imports of masks.

India has fixed a monthly export quota of 4 crore units per month for 2/3 ply surgical masks and 20 lakh units per month for medical goggles for issuing export licenses to eligible applicants.

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