New Delhi, Delhi, India | 1st August 2020: The Non-Woven Federation of India (NWFI) has said that restrictions on exports of Spunbond nonwoven fabrics and various types of masks are hurting the domestic industry and is demanding the removal of various restrictions.

The Federation represents regional associations of approx. 1000 Spunbond Nonwoven Fabric Manufacturers and its Convertors (finished products) in India.

In view of Covid-19 cases, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had prohibited exports of textile raw materials for masks & Coveralls and surgical/disposable masks in March. However, on July 13, DGFT allowed exports of nonwoven fabric other than 25-70 GSM (gram per square meter), while continuing to prohibit exports of fabric of 25-70 GSM.

“Majority of the demand is for Spunbond nonwoven fabric of 25-70 GSM. This policy of partially lifting of ban on nonwoven fabric exports is technically not correct as there is no differentiation in manufacturing facilities on the basis of GSM. Manufacturers can make fabric of GSM ranging from 10 to 200 in the same plant with change in process speed,” said Suresh Patel – President of NWFI.

The Federation said that if there are concerns about the availability of fabric for PPE kits and masks if export restrictions are lifted, the government can reserve 50% of the nonwoven fabric production for domestic consumption, and allow exports of the remaining 50%.
 
“However, there should not be any restrictions on the export of fabric based on particular GSM,” said Suresh Patel.

The Domestic Consumption of Spunbond nonwoven fabric for Medical applications such as PPE Kit, 3 Ply Masks and N95 Masks is around 5,200 Metric tonnes per month, which is 12.6% of the total production capacity of 41,350 metric tonnes. Similarly, capacity utilization of 3 ply surgical masks and N95 masks is just 18% of the total monthly installed capacity of 79.89 crore pieces.

“These figures show that the country is self-sufficient in Spunbond nonwoven fabric and surgical mask requirements. Hence, the restrictions on their exports do not make any practical sense,” said Anshumali Jain – Vice President, NWFI, adding that before the ban was imposed in March, the capacity utilization was 90%, and the products were being exported across the world.

“We are losing market share in the international market because of the curbs,” said Anshumali Jain.

The Spunbond Nonwoven industry directly employs approximately 6.5-7 lakh people, while the indirect employment is estimated at more than 20 lakh.

The Federation noted that installed capacity is continuously rising due to addition of new facilities, even as fabrics like cotton, polyester, nylon, SMS, SSMMS, Meltblown, and Spunlace fabrics are also now being used as raw material for making PPE Coveralls and Masks.

In separate letters to Textile Minister Smriti Irani, MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari and Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Federation demanded that the export restrictions be lifted.

“The government should allow exports of Spunbond Nonwoven fabric and 3 ply surgical masks without any restrictions, while certified manufacturers should be allowed to freely export N95 masks,” the Federation said.

It demanded an increase of quota and relaxation of the criterion of selection based on various quality certifications, and also demanded that import duty on all types of masks and PPE coveralls be reinstated.

“There is a strong anti-China sentiment in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic and everyone is looking at India as an alternative to China. However, the continuing ban on exports of spun-bond non-woven fabric is not allowing us to take advantage of this situation. Instead, the business is going to countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia,” said Nikesh Shah, general secretary of Non Woven Federation of India (NWFI), which represents regional associations of spun-bond nonwoven fabric manufacturers and its products, including masks.

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