Cheap imports of masks from China has pushed the US manufacturers to the brink as production plunges.American manufacturer Premium-PPE has seen its monthly mask production plunge nearly 90 per cent from last year’s peak, falling to 4 million to 5 million, reported Nikkei Asia. Taisei Hoyama, writing in Nikkei Asia said that equipment and piles of unsold merchandise filled its factory in the city of Virginia Beach. Its workforce, once boasting as many as 280 people, has shrunk to about 50.
Premium-PPE is among the US mask makers losing out to Chinese rivals that Dillie and his peers accuse of flooding the market with products priced below cost — a problem that connects to debates over national security and the cost of self-sufficiency, wrote Taisei Hoyama.Premium-PPE sold electronic cigarettes before pivoting to disposable masks in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic spread like wildfire in the US. With medical personnel having to reuse masks in the face of a grave shortage, its products flew off the shelves.
Each box of masks declares the products are “Made in USA” in large letters, as a mark of quality. Demand has not vanished, even with the country’s progress on vaccinations. But few consumers are willing to spend 10 times as much for an American alternative to a Chinese-made mask, reported Nikkei Asia.The US has nearly 300 million masks sitting unused in warehouses, and producers are going under one after another, according to the American Mask Manufacturer’s Association, which includes small and midsize companies.
The group, chaired by Dillie, sent a letter to President Joe Biden in May asking for the government to buy up this inventory, among other support measures.Maintaining mask production in the US to prepare for future pandemics is “a matter of national security,” the letter said. The group said imported Chinese surgical masks now sell for an average of 1 cent each, said Taisei Hoyama.The coronavirus laid bare American reliance on China for many medical products, alarming officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The US imported 72 per cent of its face masks from China in 2019, the Congressional Research Service said. The government institute’s report showed large shares of imports from the Asian country for a broad range of medical supplies. China remains the “world’s factory” for many products that are cheap and difficult to differentiate, reported Nikkei Asia.