IFC promotes Vietnam's PPE production capacity
Vietnam has emerged as one of the new personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers globally.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is supporting Vietnam’s PPE manufacturers to export reliable and quality PPE products to foreign countries, where frontline health workers are struggling with the Covid-19 outbreak.
Experts have said that the significant shortage of PPE in many countries has impacted the containment of the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 18 months.
Production of medical masks at a garment factory. Source: Kinhtedothi
Given the unprecedented pandemic, the global volume demand for high-quality PPE products—face masks, medical gloves, safety glasses and shoes, respirators, coveralls, vests, and full bodysuits—increased three to four times between 2019 and 2020.
As it takes time to deliver large-scale vaccinations to cover the global population, demand for PPE products is expected to continue growing at between 6%-9% annually at least until 2025, according to a recent study funded by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
In Vietnam, PPE manufacturing capacity surged with a six-fold jump in production in 2020 and the country has emerged as one of the new PPE suppliers globally. This ramped-up supply was initially driven by textile manufacturers shifting production in response to the health emergency and to mitigate losses caused by canceled orders for garments.
Vu Duc Giang, Chairman of Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS), said some textile manufacturers who started producing PPE products as an immediate response to the pandemic, are now considering the medium to longer-term business opportunity in this area.
“However, local manufacturers have struggled with insufficient input materials, technical skills and sector knowledge, and the disparity between local and international standards to access the global market,” Giang said.
Being a member of the global PPE advisory program supported by the UK Government, IFC is working with local garment manufacturers through VITAS and national labs through the Directorate for Standards, Metrology, and Quality of Vietnam (STAMEQ), with an aim to improve local PPE producers’ operations and reduce costs by removing unnecessary burdens related to PPE standards and conformity assessments.
A kick-off webinar—PPE Supply and Demand Perspectives—was organized on June 9 in Hanoi in collaboration with VITAS. This is the first of a series to boost PPE-related industry knowledge, with a focus on technical requirements and standards for PPE products in different markets.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has tested the resilience of supply chains to the limit, especially on medical supplies including personal protective equipment. The UK believes that the diversification of PPE manufacturing will make the global supply chain more adaptable and prevent future disruption,” said Gareth Ward, British Ambassador to Vietnam.
“I am very pleased that Vietnam has been chosen as a priority country for this UK government-funded program. Vietnamese companies have a lot of potentials to succeed globally with a skilled labor force,” the ambassador said.
Over the next 18 months, the project will also support select manufacturers to scale quality PPE production, access a reliable supply of materials and equipment, and achieve PPE international standards and certification to expand exports.
Kyle Kelhofer, Country Manager for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Lao PDR, said access to cost-effective and quality PPE products is vital to national Covid-19 responses, helping contain and manage the spread of the coronavirus.
“Promoting the production of PPE products in compliance with international standards not only helps increase Vietnam’s resilience to the pandemic but also presents a business case as the PPE global supply chain is diversifying with opportunities for new manufacturers from emerging markets including Vietnam,” he said.
In January 2021, IFC and the UK Government launched a global PPE advisory program to increase the supply of Covid-related PPE products to developing countries—as part of IFC’s Covid-19 response and under IFC’s Global Health Platform. IFC’s platform was launched in July 2020 and includes up to US$4 billion in financings to increase access to critical healthcare services and products to fight the pandemic in the developing world.