India boosting ethanol output for sanitisers on coronavirus pandemic

Author: Priya Jestin

2020/03/23

MUMBAI (ICIS)--India has asked its state governments to ensure continuous availability of ethanol/ ethyl alcohol/ extra neutral alcohol to manufacturers of hand sanitizers to meet the surge in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Necessary permissions on account of licensing and storage of ethyl alcohol/extra neutral alcohol (ENA)/ethanol may be accorded by the state government agencies to sanitizer companies up to their installed capacity without any quota restriction on supply," the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has stated in a circular.

State governments have also been asked to give permission to distilleries on a priority basis to produce sanitiser in bulk, which can then be packed and bottled.

High demand for hand sanitizers since the beginning of March had led to hoarding which caused a spike in prices and also sale of spurious products.

The hand sanitizer industry has been unable to meet the increased demand as it was not getting adequate supply of ethanol, a key ingredient in the manufacture of sanitizers, an official at the ministry of consumer affairs said.

“Under normal circumstances, there are a lot of procedures involved in increasing ethanol procurement for the sanitizer industry. This would have caused a lot of delay. So we decided to cut the red tape to ensure quicker supply,” he added.

Ethanol, an active ingredient in the production of hand sanitisers, is manufactured by sugar mills in India.

The Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) and All India Distiller Association (AIDA) have assured the government of adequate supply of ethanol for the production of sanitizers to meet the increased demand.

"ISMA has given a commitment that all the requirements of the hand sanitizer manufacturers for ethanol and ENA would be supplied to them at least for the next two to three months,” the association said in a letter addressed to member sugar mills.

ISMA is the umbrella body for sugar mills in India.

At 100% capacity utilization, the hand sanitizer industry is expected to have a requirement of 8m-10m litres/month of ethanol, as per a report in the Hindu Businessline.

India currently has an ethanol production capacity of 3.5bn litres/year, as per official records.

The Indian government brought hand santizers under the Essential Commodities Act on 19 March to prevent hoarding and also capped prices at Rs 100 ($1.32) for a 200 ml bottle until 30 June.

Over the past five years, the Indian government has actively encouraged capacity expansion in ethanol production for blending with petrol as part of its plan to reduce oil imports.

The total number of coronavirus positive cases in India stands at 415.

The Indian government has enforced a complete lockdown across urban areas of the country and has stopped all forms of public transport and has imposed restrictions on movement to arrest the spread of the disease.

($1 =Rs75.99)

Focus article by Priya Jestin

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