Covid push: Pharma exports surge 16%, defy broader gloom

By: |
January 15, 2021 4:45 AM

The rise is remarkable, especially in the light of initial Covid-induced disruptions in the supply chain and the temporary restrictions on the exports of 26 drug formulations and active pharma ingredients (APIs) — including paracetamol, tinidazole and metronidazole — to keep domestic supplies steady.

A rise in India’s pharmaceutical exports also propped its outbound shipments of the borader chemicals segment and reversed a potential fall.

India’s pharmaceutical exports grew an impressive 16% year-on-year in the first eight months of this fiscal, defying an almost 18% contraction in the overall mechandise exports, as the Covid-19 pandemic caused a spurt in demand for medicines, especially from the largest market — the US.

The rise is remarkable, especially in the light of initial Covid-induced disruptions in the supply chain and the temporary restrictions on the exports of 26 drug formulations and active pharma ingredients (APIs) — including paracetamol, tinidazole and metronidazole — to keep domestic supplies steady.

Exports of the pharmaceutical products — comprising drug formulations and biologicals, bulk drugs and drug intermediates — hit $15.3 billion between April and November, against $13.2 billion a year ago, showed the commerce ministry data. The data don’t include exports of certain fine chemicals.

Excluding the outbound shipments of pharmaceuticals, overall goods exports would have shrunk at a faster pace of almost 20% until November this fiscal, against 18%. The US, which was hit the hardest by the pandemic, typically makes up for about 30% of India’s exports.

The commerce ministry data showed that while exports of drug formulations and biologicals jumped by close to 18% to $12.4 billion, those of bulk drugs and intermediates rose by just over 10% to $2.9 billion.

Meanwhile, imports of these pharmaceutical products rose by close to 9% on year in the April-November period to $4.2 billion. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is both an exporter to as well as importer of bulk drugs (APIs and intermediates that give medicines their therapeutic value) from China, the epicentre of the Covid-19. As much as 65-70% of these raw materials are imported from China. The increase in exports suggests raw material imports from China have largely stabilised now.

A rise in India’s pharmaceutical exports also propped its outbound shipments of the borader chemicals segment and reversed a potential fall. Exports of chemicals and related products rose to $30.7 billion until November, up 2.4% from a year earlier.

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