Indian plastic processors face labour shortage, logistics woes amid lockdown

Author: Priya Jestin


MUMBAI (ICIS)--Labour shortage and logistics problems would affect overall production of India's plastic processors during the country's 21-day lockdown, although the government's decision to allow unhindered transport of all goods may have eased some pressure on the industry.

A number of packaging and plastic processor firms have reduced or shut down operations, in line with the 25 March to 14 April nationwide lockdown meant to contain the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus in the country.

“While most of our members have continued production during this shutdown, labour shortage could slow down operations,” Deepak Lawale, secretary general of the Organization of Plastic Processors of India (OPPI) told ICIS.

OPPI members account for nearly 45% of the polymer processing done in India, according to its website.

Semi- and unskilled labourers who form the backbone of India’s unorganized labour sector are required in various operations through the production chain, including transportation. Since India announced its nationwide lockdown on 25 March, migrant labourers have been returning to their villages.

“The labourers have left for their homes only recently. Even if they reach their villages by 3-4 April, we cannot expect them to return quickly,” Lawale said, adding that though the lockdown may end on 14 April, bringing production and transportation back to optimum levels may take time.

There could be a short-term shortage of packaging materials required for medicines and ointments like plastics and tubes, said a source at a Mumbai-based packaging firm, which provides blister packaging material for medicines.

“Medicines are essential goods so production of ancillary goods like chemicals, blister packaging material, caps, bottles and cartons for medicine production is ongoing. The problem is of transporting these goods,” he added.

As of 30 March, India has a total of 1,071 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 29 deaths. The pandemic is believed to have started in China's central Wuhan city and has since spread to more than 200 countries/territories/areas, according to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Many transporters in India have refused to ply even essential goods as their drivers were being manhandled by police officials along the route, the source at the packaging firm said.

“There has been an issue of certain goods producers not receiving plastic films for packaging and lot of other such complaints. But that was more a transportation problem,” Lawale of OPPI said.

“Transporters who have been unwilling to send their vehicles and drivers out as the police were stopping them, can now use the latest government notification to ensure that movement of goods continues smoothly,” he added.

Focus article by Priya Jestin

Photo: Migrant workers and their families walk on foot from cities to their respective villages following India's nationwide lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. Prayagraj, India - 30 Mar 2020 (By Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP/Shutterstock)

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