INSIGHT: India markets await clarity on deadlines for quality control standards

Author: Nurluqman Suratman


SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Several petrochemical markets in India are still awaiting further clarity from the government on whether the deadlines to meet new quality norms could be extended following a recent request by domestic industry associations to defer implementation.

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in April this year announced that various chemicals and polymers have 180 days to to meet the deadline for the implementation of mandatory certification requirement on imports.

Market players explained that there had been previous instances of low-quality imports, which affected the conditions of the end-product. As such, the BIS would ensure a standardised quality for the importers.

Under an order issued on 15 April this year, the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers made it mandatory for several petrochemical products, including polyethylene (PE), linear alkyl benzene (LAB) and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), to meet the new criteria set by BIS.

The standards for PE would apply to low density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE).

Domestic players have until 12 October 2021, 180 days from the announcement of the standard on 15 April, to comply with the mandate.

A request to defer the quality control order mandated by BIS was made to the Department of Commerce earlier this week, according to an official document received by ICIS.

In this request, the Plastics Export Promotion Council, All lndia Plastic Manufacturers Association and various other plastic associations have put forth some challenges and issues they foresee emerging as a result of the implementation of BIS-mandated quality norms.

One concern that was raised was that Indian finished products may lose competitive edge in international markets.

PE grades such as medical grade LDPE are not manufactured in India, while metallocene LLDPE and HDPE pipe – including black PE 100, orange and blue varieties have to be imported to meet demand in the country.

Separately, the Indian EVA industry is also dependent solely on imports that are consumed by the footwear and electrical industry.

The industry associations have thus requested the government to not impose mandatory BIS norms on those polymers for which India is imports-dependent.

Furthermore, they have requested for consideration that the mandatory norms not be imposed until domestic production is enough to meet the country's demand.

Instead, the associations have suggested that BIS standards should be made mandatory for the plastic finished products imported into India in large quantities, the quality of which is not always consistent and up to standard.

The industry associations has also requested that the implementation timeline of six months to meet the requirements of the Control Order should be extended by at least 12 more months from October 2021 to October 2022.

The Indian government could undertake stakeholder discussions with industry associations on the adverse impact of mandatory BIS standards on polymer raw material.

The department on 23 April also extended the date of enforcement of existing quality control orders for namely methanol, aniline, acetic acid to 3 February 2022.

On 26 April, the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals issued via gazette a 180-day order for acrylonitrile, maleic anhydride, methyl acrylate, ethyl acrylate, n- butyl acrylate, styrene and vinyl acetate monomer to meet the new standards.

In August this year, the department announced that the mandate for acetone to meet the implementation of quality certifications would come into place on 13 March 2022, after being first delayed to 14 September this year.

According to market players, companies would require time to complete the entire registration process that spans a few months and would need to fulfil all criteria including plant inspections and product checks in order to be BIS-certified.

Implementing the BIS certification of imports of products may be delayed from mid-October, as inspections of overseas plants could not be carried out amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have ready documents for BIS and the final procedure is site inspection by BIS [officials] and we requested several times that we're ready to receive inspection,” said a South Korea-based EVA producer.

In India, small-scale converters of foaming grade EVA with 18% vinyl acetate (VA) content in the downstream footwear industry have halted production due to shortages and high cost of the feedstock.

In the LAB market, major producers, both domestic and overseas have begun the certification process by submitting the application and are awaiting plant inspection and testing by BIS officials.

The impact of the certification on LAB  supply as well as imports into India is uncertain as of now.

In the methanol market, an India-based source said that while there has been no announcements on any further extension so far to the product's 3 February 2022 implementation date but a six-month delay "is inevitable".

There is no urgent need for BIS for methanol because most of the imports are specced above the mandated requirements, the source added.

Insight by Nurluqman Suratman and Veena Pathare

With additional reporting by Veena Pathare, Angeline Soh, Damini Dabholkar, Helen Lee and Kite Chong