At the height of the crisis in China in early February, Guan Chunch built a lab within 11 days to produce “N95” masks.
With the spread of the epidemic on Chinese soil and the proliferation of cases abroad, the lab manager (34 years) is targeting new markets such as Italy, which is the country most affected by the emerging corona virus.
Mask manufacturers became more like an army: During the first two months of 2020, China registered 8,950 new masks factories on its soil, according to Tianyansha’s corporate information website.
The number of new cases decreased gradually in the country after the closure of Hubei Province, the epidemic outbreak, at the end of January. But Covid-19 has since infected more than 500,000 people worldwide, which has increased the demand for protective equipment.
Chi Sheng Hu, director of sales for a company in Dongguan (south of the country), likened the “mask making machine to a banknote printing machine”.
In addition, profit margins increased by a few cents from the euro per mask, compared to less than one cent previously. “We are currently producing about 60,000 to 70,000 masks a day. It looks like we are printing money,” he says.
Ki Guangzhou has invested more than 50 million yuan (6.5 million euros) in making masks at her factory in Dongguan, currently operating 24 hours a day.
“The problem is not in the return on investment,” says Ki, who has received more than 200
An order of 100 million yuan (13 million euros), rather “by machines that are worn out within 15 days.”
Yu Lichen has never traveled to the territory of a mask factory, but has decided to enter the sector because of his promising profits. Ten days later, he sold his first product.
“I used to sleep for two or three hours a day just to be successful in my work,” says Lichen.
Customers were also impatient and some of them spent the night at the factory, according to Lichen, to get their orders as quickly as possible.
The owners of the textile workshops also switched to making masks.
“They received requests that they couldn’t fulfill all of them at first due to the lack of production capacity,” Yu explains.
The global shortage of protective masks has pushed up commodity prices. Guan Chunch reports that the price of the masks’ production cloth increased from 10 thousand to 480 thousand yuan per ton (from 1300 to 62 thousand euros).
The mask producer Liao Biao had to fight to get parts for his machines because of the road closures at the height of the epidemic.
Once the machine was assembled, he had to straighten it, especially after the price had risen more than 10 times. But despite the high costs, the sector was highly profitable.
According to official figures, China produces 116 million masks every day, many of which are for export.
Guan Chunch says it has shipped one million units to Italy, while Chi Qingwei confirms that he has received more than 200 orders from South Korea and Europe.
“The peak of the first requests arose in mid-February. Now there is a second wave with the start of the second epidemic phase,” Che explains.
Liao Biao looks forward to exporting to Europe and Canada and says, “The demand for masks has decreased in China, and now we have a surplus to support other countries. We are ready to help.”
But will this sector become a victim of overproduction after the epidemic is closed? Guan Chinch does not think so, and she indicates that “most people will have a habit of wearing a mask.” (AFP)