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Hold up of Chinese imports disrupting Covid medical supplies: Pharma export body ‘SOS’ to govt

Pharmexcil, the apex pharma export body, has written to the Department of Pharmaceuticals seeking govt intervention, saying drug makers are facing acute disruption in manufacturing.

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New Delhi: India’s apex pharma export body has sent an “SOS” message to the Narendra Modi government seeking an intervention as drug makers are facing “acute disruption” in manufacturing of pharmaceutical products due to non-clearance of products imported from China across the country, ThePrint has learnt.

In a letter to the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) secretary, which ThePrint has accessed, the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) said pharma products including key starting materials (KSMs), intermediaries and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are stuck at ports and airports, especially in Maharashtra and Delhi.

Even Covid-19 related medical devices and diagnostics are stuck, the body stated.

A DoP official who didn’t wish to be identified said these goods are imported from China. However, due to the ongoing border standoff in Ladakh, officers at ports and airports are inspecting all consignments instead of random checks leading to delays, the official said, adding that consignments from the government-run Hindustan Latex Limited’s (HLL) have also been held at customs. “HLL had placed orders to import masks and protective goggles,” the official said.

“We have been inundated with distress calls from a lot of our member companies that there has been an acute disruption in manufacturing of pharmaceutical products over the last three days,” said the letter dated 27 June. It has also been marked to officials in other ministries, including external affairs and health and family welfare.

Set up under the provisions of Foreign Trade Policy in 2004, Pharmexcil functions under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and works for promoting pharmaceutical exports from India.

Critical Covid-related orders also being held

In the letter, written by Pharmexcil director Udaya Bhaskar, the body said diagnostic devices and medical equipment needed for ensuring Covid care were also being held up at Customs.

“Very critical KSM’s, Intermediates and API’s are not being cleared for the reasons not known the industry at all. Even in the case of medical devices and critical diagnostic devices such as infrared thermometers and pulse oximeters which are specifically aimed at Covid diagnosis are also held up at Delhi Port,” said the letter.

Commonly used diagnostics such as glucometers and strips are also stuck.

To “illustrate the grave situation”, the letter said “we urgently appeal to you to kindly intervene in the matter on save our ship (SOS) and kindly instruct that clearances from customs are permitted”.

“All these materials which are genuine in nature should be cleared and dispatched to ensure there is no disruption of manufacturing at all under any circumstances,” it said.

Also read: Modi govt plans to impose strict rules and tariffs on Chinese imports

‘Self sufficiency will take time’

Pharmexcil warned of consequences for the industry if the clearances are not expedited.

“…man made disruptions as stated above as have created tremendous difficulties for the industry and we sincerely fear that if the same are not expedited on top priority in terms of clearances, whatever great work has been done in the past through your good offices to help the industry to maintain the current 90-100% production and supply chain may get completed diluted,” it said.

While talking about the “good work” done by government departments in the past, the letter highlighted that the “self sufficiency” or “Atma Nirbharta” principle will take its own time in a “phased and considered manner”.

This was a reference to the Modi government’s call for self-reliance amid the Covid crisis.

“During current distressed and challenging times of global Covid-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical industry has risen to meet with the challenge,” it said, counting the 27 per cent export growth in May 2020 from a year ago as it surpassed $2 billion.

“India has been acknowledged as ‘Pharmacy to the World’ as well as a very humane, generous country supplying critical Covid related medicines to 100+ countries,” it added.

Also read: Depending on China for imports could threaten India’s drug security: Export council DG


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  1. This is a welcome waning sign for all dependent processing units. Their vulnerability could be, nay will be exploited by foreign suppliers not only for economic reasons but also for political reasons as well.
    Consider this as a permanent disruption and irrespective of the loses just get out of this situation ASAP.

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