Monday, March 02, 2015

Our Little Game of Pretence

Sometimes we act as though China does not exist. It is a disconcerting little game of pretence.

Yesterday, a top bureaucrat at the Indian Ministry of Commerce tweeted:

On the face of it, this looks like a useful nugget - until you start wondering who is no. 1. That is when everything comes into perspective.

It took India hundred years to grow its cement industry to about 360 million tonnes. China, on the other hand, expanded its cement production from less than 50 millon tonnes (mT) in 1978, to over 2000 mT in 2014. It now produces more than half the entire global production. Yet we think our achievement over the last 100 years is something "spectacular".

Now consider the Indian pharmaceutical industry. We claim to be a global powerhouse in generic medicines. And then comes along a BCG-CII report saying that Indian companies are completely dependent on Chinese imports for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), the most critical ingredient in the drug manufacturing process.

Here is what an ET report says:

Imports of APIs and advanced intermediates have grown close to 20 per cent a year from $800 million in 2004 to $3.4 billion now. China accounts for 58 per cent of such imports by value and 80 per cent by volume, trade estimates point out.
The essential drugs include Paracetamol, Ranitidine, Metformin, Amoxicillin, Ciprofloxacin, Acetyl Salicylic Acid, Ofloxacin, Cefixime, Ibuprofen, Ampicillin, and Metronidazole. A recent industry report pointed out any strain in the Sino-Indian relationship could cause a severe shortage of essential drugs.

This leaves us with one big puzzle. Why on earth do the Chinese companies continue to let India pretend to be a pharma powerhouse? Why don't they just go ahead with their APIs and manufacture the drug formulations themselves?

One expert suggests that they are just warming up for the next big thing - Biosimilars. Wonder if this is true...


* China Cement production --

* IBEF on the Indian Pharma Sector -

* USFDA lens on China is bad news for India --

* * (2014, OCt29, ET): Soma Das -- India relies on China for 90 per cent of drug raw materials --

* (2014, Nov14, ToI): Sushmi Dey --

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