Surgical Mask Shortage May Bring Export Ban

The risk that Russia will face a shortage of surgical masks amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic is raising alarm bells with officials, and in order to prevent this, the Ministry of Industry and Trade is considering the possibility of curbing the export of face masks, Kommersant reports citing sources in the pharmaceutical market. 

Meanwhile, the newspaper’s source in a major drugstore network pointed out that foreign buyers – particularly those in China and Thailand – kept requesting surgical masks.

DSM Group General Director Sergei Shulyak says that the annual production of surgical masks depends on the market’s anticipated needs. Making more masks than the market is expected to require may turn out to be cost-ineffective. According to Shulyak, a temporary ban on mask exports will help meet domestic needs.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has led to a surge in demand for antiviral drugs and surgical masks in Russia. Their sales have skyrocketed by 80% since mid-January.

Marketing Director of the 36.6 drugstore network Evgenia Lamina points out that surgical mask manufacturers were not ready for such a situation. “They are running out of their stockpiles and we can see mask prices starting to grow,” she noted. According to a Kommersant source, some manufacturers have raised wholesale prices of surgical masks nearly eightfold, but nevertheless, masks are still hard to find.

PNC Pharma Development Director Nikolai Bespalov emphasized that overhyped domestic demand for face masks would offset any potential losses that businesses could face due to the export ban.

According to him, mask sales will depend on the speed of the virus spread in Russia and the media coverage of the issue. “If the situation does not deteriorate, then the hype will fade in about two weeks but if not, demand may remain high for a month or more,” the expert said.

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