Economy

Indian pharma hit hard by China’s suspension of cargo flights

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on April 30, 2021

Pharmexcil seeks urgent intervention of the Central government

The India pharma is hit hard by suspension of cargo flights by China which has adversely impacted raw material imports, adding to the Covid-19 challenges faced by the sector. .

“About 15 days ago Chinese State-owned Sichuan Airlines suspended cargo services to India,'' R Uday Bhaskar, Director-General, Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil), told BusinessLine on Thursday. “It is worrisome, in addition to increased freight cost and shortage of containers in the current scenario,'' the official added.

Pharmexcil has requested the Centre to intervene and also wrote to Vikram Misri, Ambassador, Embassy of India in Beijing.

According to official data, India is sourcing almost 60-70 per cent of requirement of drug intermediates/ key starting materials (KSM)/active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) from China and most importantly 45-50 per cent of all APls imported feature in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).

The decision to suspend cargo flights to India by China comes at a time when the pharma industry is struggling hard to meet the global commitments during this hard phase of Covid second wave.

“It is likely to disrupt frantic efforts by the Indian pharma industry to import medical supplies, including oxygen concentrators as well as the KSMs/APIs required to manufacture finished formulations,'' Bhaskar said. The same has also been communicated to the Centre and the Indian Embassy in China .

As per the inputs received by Pharmexcil from the industry, pharma manufacturers/exporters are fearing cascading effects on the entire supply chain, leading to shortage of essential medicines in the domestic and export markets.

Though the Product Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for APl manufacturing is being out by the Government of India, it is going to take some time to reduce our dependence on import of KSMs.

Pharmexcil has requested the government to intervene and to take necessary measures to restore the supply chain of medical needs of the country, including KSMs/APls etc.

It could be done either by restoring the cargo services of Sichuan Airlines or by way of arranging Indian air cargo to lift the medical supplies at the interest of the people during these difficult times, according to Bhaskar.

Even though the Chinese State-owned airlines said a few days ago that they were working on a new plan to resume services to India (as per news agency reports), nothing concrete has happened so far and cargo operations continue to be disrupted.

Published on April 29, 2021

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