Mumbai: There has been a five-fold rise in the maximum retail price of N-95 masks in Mumbai since the pandemic outbreak. Every 15 days or so, the price of these items has been rising in Mumbai. The cost of one box of 50 such masks has risen from Rs 2,500 to 12,500, from January until now, The government is currently procuring the masks at Rs 65 each, as against the earlier Rs 17.34 per mask.
The All Food and Drug License Holder Foundation (AFDLHF) has posed a query on this subject. There are only two companies in Mumbai producing N-95 or 3- ply masks - Venus Safety and Health Private Limited (in the Taloja industrial area) and Magnum Health and Safety Pvt Ltd (near Palghar). Abhay Pandey, president, AFDLHF, said since the outbreak, there has been a huge demand for N-95 and 3-ply masks in the country. As global demand began to soar, these two companies began to export masks, hoping to capitalise on the situation.
“Bearing in mind that corona cases would increase in Maharashtra, we had asked the Central and state governments to ban the export of N-95 masks. But when this was brought into effect, the companies began to export 3-ply masks, once again causing the country to reel under shortage,” said Pandey. Given that these two companies are the nodal manufacturers of these masks, they are trying to take advantage of their position and have begun increasing the MRP every 15 days.
“In January, the MRP of one box of 50 pieces was Rs 2,500. This was later hiked to Rs 7,500 and, now, it has surged to Rs 12,500 per box. Similarly, the government used to procure one N-95 mask for Rs 17.34; and, now, it is paying Rs 65 per unit. But since there is no cap on prices, the makers continue to raise them,” Pandey said.
Attempts by The Free Press Journal to contact both companies on the subject failed to elicit a response. The National Pharmaceuticals Price Authority (NPPA) has intervened to ensure their availability at affordable prices in the country, the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers said in a statement on Monday.
"NPPA issued an advisory on May 21, 2020, to all the manufacturers/ importers/ suppliers of the N-95 masks to maintain parity in prices for non-government procurements and to make available the same at reasonable prices," it said. Despite the NPPA intervention and advisory instructing manufacturers to reduce the price of N-95 masks by 47 per cent, it is learnt these continue to be sold in the market at Rs 200-300 each.
Joint commissioner JB Mantri, Food and Drug Administration, said “They cannot do anything about the price, as these companies are handled by the Central government and all decisions are taken by them.”