Coronavirus: Govt to consider airlifting APIs only if industry pays

An official said pharmaceutical companies have told the government that they have enough API stocks till April.
The Centre will consider airlifting essential raw material and components, including active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), from China, only if the industry is willing to pay for it.


“The government has airlifted Indian citizens from Wuhan, and have even sent supplies to China. But airlifting components and APIs is another matter, as that will be seen as a commercial activity with the private sector. So it will only be considered if the private sector is willing to pay for the cost of such an undertaking,” a top government official told Business Standard.


Three weeks ago, after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s meeting with representatives of the various industries over supply of goods and components being delayed from China due to the coronavirus outbreak, sources had said the government would actively consider a suggestion of airlifting formulations of essential pharmaceutical products.


It is now understood that the government has drawn up contingency plans for the same, but will only activate them if they are paid for.


A second official said pharmaceutical companies have told the government that they have enough API stocks till April. “If China still cannot deliver the APIs, and there is a shortage of APIs for essential medicines, then we will have to take the steps,” the official said.


As reported earlier, after multiple rounds of meetings with exporters, importers, and other industry stakeholders, the government has firmed up its response to the coronavirus epidemic. The Centre has decided against a broad-based approach, and will tackle the issues on a case-to-case basis.


Officials have also ruled out any rollback to import duty hikes announced in the Union Budget 2020-21. In the immediate term, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs is working on easing clearances of goods which arrive without proper documentation, and banks have been told to provide bridge loans to companies which have already paid to their suppliers in China but haven't got the deliveries, and are going through a working capital crunch.


On Wednesday, new cases of coronavirus infection were detected in the country, taking the number of confirmed cases to 28, which prompted the government to take a host of measures to shield the economy from the impact of the deepening contagion.


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