'Printing money': booming mask producers in China meet global demand
Published : Saturday, 28 March, 2020 at 5:32 AM Count : 515
As the coronavirus pandemic that originated in a central Chinese city has gone global, factories in China and South Korea have nimbly turned to new and very profitable markets -- face masks and test kits for export.
At the height of China's outbreak in early February, Guan Xunze's company created a new mask factory in just eleven days. The factory, with five production lines in northeastern China, made the much-needed N95 face masks which were in huge demand as infection numbers surged.
As cases in the country have dwindled, the 34-year-old -- who was previously in pharmaceuticals -- is now profiting from new markets and exporting masks to Italy.
In the first two months of the year, a staggering 8,950 new manufacturers started producing masks in China, according to business data platform Tianyancha -- racing to fill the huge gap in demand.
But after the virus epicentre of Hubei province was placed on lockdown and the initial frenzy began to die down in China, virus outbreaks emerged in new hotspots elsewhere in the world.
Globally more than 400,000 have been infected with the deadly coronavirus, and demand for protective equipment is still soaring as nations across the globe battle the outbreak.
"A mask machine is a real cash printer," said Shi Xinghui, sales manager of an N95 mask machine company in Dongguan city, southeastern Guangdong province. "Printing 60,000 or 70,000 masks a day is equivalent to printing money."
According to China's official figures, China's daily mask production has passed 116 million now, with many meeting overseas demand.
In South Korea, production of coronavirus test kits destined for export around the world has spiked as the global pandemic sends demand soaring.
SD Biosensor is one of five South Korean companies whose Covid-19 diagnostic tests are being used in the country, where a huge "trace, test and treat" effort appears to have brought the epidemic under control.
The company is now making 350,000 test kits a day and already exporting to eight countries including Germany, Iran, India and Italy, and is in discussions with around 60 more, led by the US.
Nearly 120 countries are now seeking to secure South Korean-made test kits, a foreign ministry official told Yonhap news agency yesterday.