Shortage of tin-free steel raw material hits packaged food supply business

By 12 May 2021

In the wake of acute shortage of tinplate/ tin-free steel material which is largely used to manufacture cans and containers to pack processed food and fruits, the processed food packaging industry is feeling a pinch.

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, said a Maharashtra-based company engaged in 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 has impacted the supply and the packaging.

Another company which is into packaging of processed cheese has complained there is suddenly a surge in price of steel and tin containers and availability is also an issue. Most of the companies who are manufacturing tin containers are small companies and could not meet the demand as we heard there is a shortage of raw material used in manufacture of cans. Not only the packed food industry but the other sectors which are the end users of the tinplate/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 for the import of tinplate/tin-free steel/ products like easy open ends, peel off ends, etc. The implementation of the same has now been extended up to 17th 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 conditions all such applications have been put on hold by BIS. This has resulted into virtual zero import of these essential materials thereby resulting in shortage of tinplate containers. Most of the suppliers from Japan, Korea have already raised their hands to get into the BIS compliance at this moment 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 four four-and-a-half lack metric tonnes as against the total demand of seven lakh metric tonnes. On an average 2.5 lakh tonnes 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, etc.

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., said Sanjay Bhatia, president, MCMA.

The industry who is the primary source of packaging for processed food, pesticides, paint and other allied industries and provide the 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.

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