New Delhi : Imports of bulk drugs and drug intermediates from China for the first nine months of the fiscal year 2021-22 was worth Rs. 17,610 crore, which accounted to around 66.48 per cent of the imports. During the year 2020-21, when the pharma sector in the country has reported a close to 10 per cent growth, the imports of bulk drugs from China has also shown a significant growth in terms of actual numbers, while in percentage of overall imports it remained the same, according to date from the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers.

According to data released by the ministry in the beginning of April, India has imported 3.02 lakh MT of bulk drugs and drug intermediates worth Rs. 26,490 crore in the nine months from April to December, 2021. Out of this, Rs. 17,610 crore worth of imports were from China.

During the year 2020-21, the total imports was 3.90 lakh MT of bulk drugs and drug intermediates, worth around Rs. 28,529 crore. Out of this, the Chinese imports were of Rs. 19,403 crore, accounting to 68.01 per cent. It may be noted that in the year 2019-20, the imports were to the tune of 3.64 lakh MT, worth Rs. 24,172 crore, of which Rs. 16,443 crore (68.02 per cent) was from China.

Meanwhile, the exports of bulk drugs and drug intermediates from India during April to December, 2021 was 3.35 lakh MT, worth Rs. 24,107 crore. This was 3.24 lakh MT worth Rs. 32,857 crore in 2020-21, and 2.71 lakh MT worth Rs. 27,533 crore in 2019-20, said the Ministry.

Bhagwanth Khuba, minister of state in the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers, recently said in the Parliament that the Indian Pharmaceutical industry is 3rd largest in the world by volume. India exported pharmaceuticals worth Rs. 1,80,551 crore in the financial year 2020-21. India exported bulk drugs/drug intermediates worth Rs. 32,857 crore in the financial year 2020-21. However, the country also imports various bulk drugs/active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for producing medicines from various countries including China.

“Most of the imports of the bulk drug/APIs are economic considerations and also, China is one of the largest producers of KSMs and API in the world. The Committee, constituted by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, observed that there are 58 APIs, for which, the dependency of the country on imports from China for these APIs varies from 50% to 100%,” said the Minister in Lok Sabha. The government has announced the production linked incentive scheme in the sector in order to address the issue of higher dependence on China for bulk drugs and intermediates.

According to the Annual Report of the Department of Pharmaceuticals for the year 2021-22, there are 500 API manufacturers contributing about 8% in the global API industry. Almost 90 per cent of the World Health Organisation pre-qualified APIs are sourced from India.

In terms of pharmaceutical strengths of the country, it said that India provides generic medicines to more than 200 countries and eight out of 20 global generic companies are from India. With 741 sites approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (as of August 2021) and 4,346 ANDA market authorisations secured by Indian companies (as on December 2020), over 55 per cent of India’s pharma exports is to highly regulated markets. Almost 65-70% of WHO’s vaccine requirements are sourced from India, it added.