The processed food packaging industry has started feeling the pinch, due to the severe shortage in the availability of tinplate/tin-free steel material that is used for manufacturing cans and containers, in order to pack processed food, including fruits.
A company based out of Maharashtra had stated that “The small players who are into the business of packaging of fruits and other processed food have lamented that the government is not able to meet the demand of tin cans and containers. This is the season to process and packaging of Mango pulp however there is shortage of cans and easy open ends which is affecting the packing of mango pulp particularly for exports as we used to do.” The Maharashtra mango (Alphonso) is famous all over the world and there is a huge demand for the pulp globally, however the shortage of tin cans has impacted the supply and the packaging as well.
Another company that has been engaged in processed cheese packaging has been complaining about the sudden surge in the prices of steel and tin containers, including mentioning about their lack of availability. With much of the small companies engaged in the manufacture of tin containers, they have been unable to fulfill the demand, due to the problem of scarcity of raw-material that is used to manufacture cans. Leaving aside the packed food industry, other sectors that had primarily been end users of the tinplate/tin- free steel containers have also complained about their inability to obtain the required quantity of containers and whatever that was available was overpriced.
On the 17th of July last year, the Government Of India had imposed a BIS Standard for the purpose of import of tinplate, Tin-free steel products such as easy open ends, peel off ends, etc. The time period for implementing the same has been extended till the 17th of July in the current year. Some of the exporters of tinplate from other countries have made an application to BIS for the purpose of obtaining the registration as well as approval of their plant. However, the COVID conditions has led to putting all of such applications on hold by the BIS. This has led to a virtual zero import of these essential materials, thereby leading to shortage of tinplate containers. A vast number of suppliers from Korea and Japan have by now raised their hands to get into the BIS compliance during this period, since nobody is desirous of undertaking a travel to India for the BIS vice versa. BIS staff cannot travel out of their country for the purpose of undertaking inspection of the plants of tinplate producers of those countries.
As per the representation provided by the Metal Can Manufacturers Association, the industry body that is looking after the interest of can making (metal packaging industry), to the Ministry of Steel, there is a big mismatch in demand and supply faced by the country, with the domestic product being limited to 4-4.5 lac metric tons as against the total demand of 7 lac metric tons. An average of about 2.5 lac tons in demand is being met through imports from Korea, China, Japan and other nations who are the bulk producers of tinplate, tin-free steel, including products such as easy open ends, peel off ends, etc.
Mr. Sanjay Bhatia, the President of MCMA had disclosed that the industry is ready to abide by the BIS standard and ready to adopt, however, at this moment it is not feasible for the global suppliers and even the government to speed up the BIS process. 3 leading international suppliers of tinplate/tin-free steel have applied for the BIS however it’s been more than 4 months that there is no action on their BIS application.
The industry that has been the primary source of packaging for processed food, including other industries such as pesticides, paint and allied industries, in addition to providing employment to more than 100 thousand individuals has been placed in a vulnerable position, due to the fact that on the one hand the suppliers are not ready to ship material to India due to lack of BIS certification while on the other hand there is lack of sufficient domestic availability of tin plate/ tin-free steel/ products.