Chinese med imports up 75%, raises concerns

News: China has become the largest exporter of medical devices to India, overtaking US and Germany during 2020-21.

The imports of med-tech and medical devices having jumped up to 75% from China alone, whereas overall increase in med-tech imports from all nations is just about 7%.

What are the reasons for the huge increase in imports?

Due to Covid-19 crisis, international supply chains initially got disrupted. To maintain investments in this field and ensuring supplies, the government resorted to reducing duty on Covid-critical devices to zero temporarily, which led to a huge influx of imports.

Most of the increase is attributed to imports of critical items like oximeters, diagnostic instruments, digital thermometers and chemical reagents, which were needed during the pandemic as a quick scale-up wasn’t possible.

What are the issues with imports?

These harm the domestic industry.

The nil customs duty did not benefit consumers and, with no MRP printed on devices, there was massive profiteering due to the huge mark-ups.

Such huge imports are also a challenge to India’s ‘Atma Nirbhar’ policy as private sector procurement largely has not been supporting ‘Make in India’, with China continuing to be a major supplier.

What is the way forward?

The Centre’s bulk purchases have been mainly restricted to respiratory care and oxygen delivery equipment due to the pandemic. Hence, impetus needs to be given to build capacity in other segments.

Medtech sector can’t be ‘Atma Nirbhar’ in a few months. We need to build technology, quality, supply chain and right policy.

Source: This post is based on the article “Chinese med imports up 75%, raises concerns” published in Times of India on 26th November 2021.

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