Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) on Friday assured the hand sanitiser industry that adequate supplies of ethanol and extra neutral alcohol (ENA) will be made available to them for the next two-three months. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the demand for hand sanitisers has shot up exponentially and manufacturers are finding it tough to maintain supply-demand balance.

This comes after the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution on Thursday asked ISMA and the All India Distilleries Association (AIDA) to ensure ethanol and ENA are made easily available to producers of sanitisers at a reasonable price, in a meeting with various industry representatives.

The Ministry has also said the prices of ethanol and ENA cannot be increased till June and will need to be sold at the price levels they were at on March 5 prices. Last week, it decided to invoke the Essential Commodities Act to curb black marketing and hoarding of products like hand sanitisers and masks.

In a letter to the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry, ISMA stated, “It is understood that the monthly requirement of ENA/ethanol for manufacturing of hand sanitisers across the country would be around 80 lakh to 1 crore litres per month (at 100 per cent capacity utilisation). A member of your industry mentioned that even though they are willing to buy ENA and ethanol at the market price, they are not getting adequate ENA/ethanol.”

“We have assured the Joint Secretary (Sugar) in the meeting that whatever quantity of ethanol/ENA is required by the manufacturers of hand sanitisers in the next two-three months, will be made available fully by the members of ISMA and AIDA,” said Abinash Verma, ISMA Director General. The sugar trade body further assured that it would work with hand sanitiser manufacturers to mitigate any problem that may come up in this regard.

The Consumer Affairs Ministry has asked all State governments to issue licences and give permission to hand sanitiser makers to store ethanol and ENA without any quota restrictions.

The Ministry has also asked them to encourage hand sanitiser makers to run their units in three shifts so that they can fully utilise their installed capacity to enhance production.

“It has also been brought to our notice by AIDA, that their distillery members can also produce sanitisers in bulk, that can be bottled by the sanitiser industry and other industries for which necessary permissions, if required may be accorded by the States/UT Administration on priority basis,” the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has stated in a circular.

Centre fixes price ceiling

Meanwhile, the Consumer Affairs Ministry has capped the prices of masks and sanitisers. A 2-ply mask price can’t exceed ₹8, while that of 3-ply can’t exceed ₹10. Sanitisers can’t exceed ₹100 for 200-ml pack.