From an acute shortage of protective equipment last year, the textile industry has managed to scale up the production of N-95 masks and PPE kits -- the first line of defence against Covid-19 -- so much so that it is equipped to address the requirement amid the second wave, ministry officials familiar with the matter said.
"The ministry does an assessment twice a week or more...There is a capacity to produce more than required when it comes to N95 masks and PPE kits. The details of the manufacturers has been shared on the website to make it easier for interested parties to place orders," said an official.
In the initial stages of the outbreak, in March 2020, India was barely producing any PPE kits in the grade set as a standard against Covid-19 by the Indian government, forcing the Centre to impose a blanket ban on exports.
However, by December, India was the second largest manufacturer of PPE kits across the world, with 450,000 units being produced daily by over 1,100 manufacturers. "There are over a crore [10 million] units of PPEs being produced per month, these include all qualities, from spun bound to non-woven to fully certified suits," said an industry expert on the condition of anonymity.
As for N-95 masks, the country has gone from producing 2 million units per month to nearly 25-30 million units per month.
There are currently 241 manufacturers of N95 masks in the country, and exports have been allowed. The only export ban to still be place in on melt blown fabric, an essential part of the N95 masks. "The manufacturers of melt blown fabric in India have increased from four to nearly 80," said the above-mentioned industry expert.
Southern Indian Mills Association secretary general K. Selvaraju said that this year, the country would not face a shortage of protective equipment. "The cost of production has gone down nearly 25-30%...Masks cost ₹30-35 per unit," he said.
Selvaraju added that the industry is well equipped to tackle the requirements for the second wave of the pandemic, while also continuing exports. "Nearly 30% of the total production is being exported," he said.
Union minister for Textiles Smriti Irani said past Wednesday that the "availability of PPE coveralls and N95 masks continues to be seamless."