Govt prohibits export of protective masks, clothing

Prabha Raghavan
surgical mask, coronavirus

tween April and November 2019, India exported around $845 million worth of the products mentioned in DGFT’s notification. (Reuters)

The Centre issued a notification on Friday prohibiting the export of equipment used to protect people from airborne particles, including certain kinds of protective clothing and masks. The development follows the detection of India’s first positive case of Novel Coronavirus in Kerala and comes ahead of the arrival of several Indian citizens from China, the epicentre of the outbreak.

“Exports of all varieties of personal protection equipment, including clothing and masks used to protect the wearer from air-borne particles, and/or any other respiratory masks or any other personal protective clothing...is hereby prohibited with immediate effect till further orders,” stated a notification from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). This includes certain types of coveralls and N95 masks.

Between April and November 2019, India exported around $845 million worth of the products mentioned in DGFT’s notification. In 2018-19, the exports were $1.27 billion, according to data from the Commerce Ministry.

The top importers of most of these products include countries like the US, the UK and Germany. China was among the top three importers of one specific category — “other instruments and appliances of medical science” —exports of which were valued at $219 million in 2018-19.

The notification also comes after China had inquired about the possibility of importing masks from India as it deals with the outbreak.

“There were some inquiries (from China) about details of suppliers from India to negotiate with them. So far it has not translated into any orders,” said an exporter. “This (prohibition of exports) may have been done as a preventive measure,” the exporter added.

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