Hundreds of millions of made-in-Vietnam face masks have been exported abroad, showing an upsurge in the operation and production capacity of Vietnamese garment and textile sector at a time when the country’s economy is struggling to overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, there are still many things to do to facilitate the sustainable export of face masks.
Conquering the world’s market
As a major garment and textile business with export revenue reaching hundreds of millions of US dollars, the Garment 10 Corporation Joint Stock Company has also suffered from the COVID-19 economic storm. The corporation has faced difficulties not only in the interruption in the supply of raw clothing materials from China but also in seeking demand for their products.
After recognising the increasing demand for face masks amidst the epidemic outbreak, the company found a way to transform the challenges into opportunities by switching to cloth face masks.
The company’s director Than Duc Viet said that Garment 10 had received an export order for 400 million medical face masks worth US$52 million, which is planned to be exported this July. The company has also received orders for more than 20 million cloth masks from US and German partners.
Face masks made by other Vietnamese garment and textile businesses have also achieved a strong position in export markets. As of April 19, Vietnam has exported over 415 million face masks.
Vietnamese businesses’ face mask production capacity is huge. The Ministry of Industry and Trade has stated that domestic producers have a total production capacity of 40 million face masks per day, or about 1.2 billion a month. By working at full capacity, the entire garment and textile sector can even produce 100 million face masks per day, or about 3 billion a month.
As estimated by the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS), domestic garment and textile businesses are able to produce around 150 million – 200 million face masks a month, which can absolutely meet domestic demand for epidemic prevention and control besides maintaining exports.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has worked to help Vietnamese businesses connect with foreign partners. Vietnamese trade offices abroad have also shared a helping hand in seeking business partners to export these items to their host countries.
Recently, the Government promulgated Resolution No 60/NQ-CP on licences for export of medical face masks, which regulates that medical face masks can be exported without caps on export volume.
Deputy head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Export-Import Agency Tran Thanh Hai said that the resolution has opened up the door for garment and textile businesses to seize opportunity amidst this difficult period of time.
Attention needed to meet quality standards
However, Vietnamese businesses have faced certain difficulties in meeting mask quality standards from the importing countries. Accordingly, to export masks to the EU and the US, Vietnamese firms must obtain a CE marking and FDA certification, respectively, which indicate that a product meets the appropriate safety and environmental protection standards.
In the wake of the pandemic ravaging the globe, and a large demand for face masks, the EU and US may allow the import of these products without CE marking and FDA certification. However, when the epidemic slows down, they will be mandatory for Vietnamese firms to get access into these markets, said Deputy Director Tran Thanh Hai.
Dinh Ngoc Long, an expert from the Vietnam Certification Centre (Quarcert), noted that to obtain a CE marking Vietnamese firm must thoroughly understand all relevant EU-wide requirements and make sure that their products meet all these essential requirements.
For FDA certification, Tran Anh Tuan, an expert from Quarcert, noted that products must undergo a review of safety and effectiveness by FDA experts and achieve agency approval before they can be marketed. Businesses must prepare adequate documents for FDA to perform a review anytime without prior notice.
Experts also noted that mask producers must be well-prepared right from the start of the production process in order to raise their competitiveness and promote their exports in the long term, particularly to demanding markets like the US and EU.
Vietnamese businesses will also face competitiveness issues when other countries with success in developing their textile and garment sectors, including China, India and Pakistan, have recovered after the epidemics.