In the wake of an acute shortage of tinplate or tin-free steel material, which is largely used to manufacture cans and containers to pack processed food and fruits, the processed food packaging industry feels a pinch.
The small players in the packaging of fruits and other processed food businesses have lamented that the government cannot meet the demand for tin cans and containers. “This is the season to process and packaging of Mango pulp. However, there is the shortage of cans and easy-open ends, which is affecting the packing of mango pulp, particularly for exports as we used to do,” said a Maharashtra-based Company engaged in the Mango pulp packaging business. The Maharashtra mango (Alphonso) is world-famous, and the pulp has a great demand worldwide; however, the shortage of tin can have impacted the supply and packaging.
Another company into the packaging of processed cheese has complained, “There is suddenly a surge in the price of steel and tin containers, and availability is also an issue.” Most of the companies manufacturing tin containers are small companies and could not meet the demand as we heard there is a shortage of raw material used in the manufacture of cans. The packed food industry and the other sectors, which are the end-users of the tinplate or tin-free steel containers, have also complained that they are not getting the required quantity of containers and whatever is available is expensive.
On 17 July 2020, the Government of India imposed a BIS standard on importing tinplate or Tin free steel products like easy-open ends, peel-off ends, including others. The implementation of the same has now been extended up to 17 July 2021. Few exporters of tinplate from other countries have applied to BIS for getting the registration and approval of their plant, but due to Covid-19 conditions, all such applications have been put on hold by BIS. Metal container manufacturers association (MCMA) mentioned that this has resulted in virtually zero import of these essential materials, resulting in a shortage of tinplate containers. Most of the suppliers from Japan, Korea have already raised their hands to get into the BIS compliance as no one wishes to travel to India for the BIS. Vice versa, BIS staff can’t move out of the country to go and inspect the plants of tinplate producers in those countries.
According to the representation given by Metal Can Manufacturers Association, an industry body, looking after the interest of can making (metal packaging industry), to the Ministry of Steel, the country has a huge demand-supply mismatch the domestic product is limited to 4 -4.5 lac metric tons as against the total demand of 7 lac metric tons. On average, 2.5 lac tons demand is met by imports from Japan, Korea, China, and other countries who are the bulk producers of tinplate, tin-free steel products like easy-open ends, peel-off ends, and others.
“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. Three leading international suppliers of tinplate, tin-free steel have applied for the BIS; however, it’s been more than four months that there is no action on their BIS application,” disclosed Sanjay Bhatia, president, MCMA.
The industry, which is the primary source of packaging for processed food, pesticides, paint, and other allied industries and provides employment to more than 100 thousand people, is feeling helpless as neither the suppliers are ready to ship material to India without BIS certification nor there is enough domestic availability of tinplate, tin-free steel products.