Cabinet approves export prohibition
The cabinet yesterday approved an order to ban face mask exports to ensure sufficient domestic supply.
Rachada Dhnadirek, a deputy government spokeswoman, said the ban proposed by the Commerce Ministry makes an exception for face masks with specifications used in industrial factories and those produced with trademark restrictions.
On Feb 21, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit signed an announcement of the Central Committee on Goods and Service Prices regarding face mask exports, banning outbound shipments.
The central committee, chaired by Mr Jurin, approved on Feb 3 the inclusion of face masks and alcohol-based hand sanitiser on the price control list.
Once on the price control list, manufacturers, distributors, exporters and importers have to notify the Internal Trade Department of production costs, prices, production volume, export/import volume and inventory. Those who export more than 500 pieces need prior approval from the department.
Similar measures were applied to hand sanitiser, except for the limit on export volume, as there are still adequate quantities for domestic demand.
This decision later won cabinet approval on Feb 11.
According to the Commerce Ministry, domestic demand for face masks has surged to 40-50 million pieces a month after the virus outbreak, up from 30 million previously.
Requests for permission to export flooded in after the order requiring exporters of more than 500 pieces to gain prior approval from the department became effective on Feb 6.
Between Feb 7 to 21, more than 100 exporters sought permission to export as many as 32 million pieces, but the ministry said the department has not granted permission to anyone.
Authorities also found some exporters had switched to exporting fewer than 500 pieces and shipping several times a day.
Thailand shipped 226 million face masks in 2019, a 218% surge from 71 million masks in 2018.
The Commerce Ministry reported to the cabinet there are now 11 factories producing 36 million face masks a month, and they can increase production to meet full capacity of 38 million a month.
Significant raw materials for face masks are filters, which are manufactured in Taiwan, China and Indonesia.
Ms Rachada said there is a shortage of filters as some manufacturers in Indonesia want to double the filter prices, while imports from China have yet to resume.
She said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the Finance Ministry and Board of Investment to study new incentives for mask manufacturers to ramp up production.