NEW DELHI: As India decides to counter Chinese military aggression at Galwan, by calling off trade agreements to hit Beijing in various sectors like railways, telecom, etc, it may be difficult to go for such action in the pharma sector, and especially so when the Corona
is raging the world over and health is the priority concern for all governments.
India, over years has been importing on an average, 68% of its entire supply of bulk
and drug intermediates annually from China, according to data provided by the chemicals and fertilizer ministry, in reply to a parliamentary question in Lok Sabha during the last Winter Session.
According to the data provided by chemicals and fertiliser minister D V Sadananda Gowda, through a written reply, India has imported around 68% Active Pharmaceuticals Ingredients (API) for drug manufacturing from China, in the last three years. In 2018-19, API worth US dollar 2405.94 million was imported from China, that accounted for 67.56% of the country’s total
, that were worth $3560.35 million.
In 2017-18, imports from China stood at 68.36 % that was worth $2055.94 million, and in 2016-17, it was 66.69% ($1826.34 mn) of the total API that India imported.
While replying to specific questions by Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha member Mala Roy, on “whether the government was dependent on China for the supply of API for drug manufacturing,” Gowda in his reply dated November 19, 2019, provided the detailed figures for the last three years on API imports and also mentioned that, “the imports from China are due to economic considerations...”
Since Roy had also asked about the government’s “contingency plans in case of a dip in supply from China” the minister told the House that as contingency plan API can be sourced from USA, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong and a few other countries, while making it clear that for India, sourcing it from China is cost-effective.
However, apart from the cost that goes up manifold, if the imports have to come from countries other than China, at present, it would be difficult even on account of the fact that most of these countries have also been hit by Covid-19 badly and they would need their own pharma products themselves before sending it out to other countries.
In its attempt to reduce dependence on imports for API, the Centre has formulated a scheme for “Assistance to Bulk Drug Industry to Common Facility Centre” to encourage indigenous manufacturing of drugs by the states and has also set up an inter-ministerial task force to enhance the process, the minister informed, barely six months back.