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Local manufacturers want to grab medical equipment market

Kamrul Hasan
28 Mar 2023 00:00:00 | Update: 28 Mar 2023 00:02:14
Local manufacturers want to grab medical equipment market

The country’s medical equipment manufacturers want to capture the domestic market; of which more than 90 per cent is still import-dependent.

The manufacturers said global companies are increasingly investing in Bangladesh which is going to be the ninth-largest consumer market in the world by 2030. Before foreign companies grab the market for good, they want to make the country self-sufficient in producing medical equipment.

According to industry insiders, the local medical equipment market is worth around Tk 4,000 crore and only 6-8 per cent of the demand is met by local manufacturers.

It will also reduce the treatment cost benefitting both the medical service providers and recipients, they said.

In a meeting with manufacturers and importers of medical equipment on Monday, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) assured of providing necessary government support for the development of the industry.

The DGDA also said that it would sit with the relevant ministries to resolve various issues faced by the manufacturers.

Moushumi Islam, managing director of Promixco Limited, a medical equipment and hospital furniture manufacturer, said, “The Covid pandemic has taught the country how important the health sector is to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the first time, medical equipment manufacturing has been recognised as a sector by the government in 2022. And we need to make the sector self-sufficient like the pharmaceuticals sector.”

She said, “The global companies are turning their attention to Bangladesh. If they can find something worthy of investment, why should we let it go out of our own hands?”

“The pharmaceutical sector has to face issues like LDC graduation and TRIPS. But the medical equipment sector does not have those issues; so, the local manufacturers need to take the opportunity,” she said, adding, “If the government provides a favourable environment, we can export medical equipment in the near future after meeting the local demand.”

In Bangladesh, the manufacturers are now producing medical beds for ICU, CCU and HDU patients, equipment for managing cardiac patients, OT lights, OT tables etc.

Md Abdur Razzaq, general secretary of Bangladesh Medical Instrument and Hospital Equipment Dealers and Manufacturers Association and also the founder and managing director of JMI Group, said, “Although belatedly, the sector has attracted government attention. Several initiatives have already been taken to support the sector.”

“If the local demand could be met by local production, it would not only decrease the treatment cost but save foreign currency also,” he said.

Recognition of medical equipment as non-traditional product demanded

After incorporating the medical equipment sector into national industry policies last year, the DGDA held a meeting with manufacturers, importers and suppliers of medical equipment.

Moushumi Islam said, “The medical instruments are comparatively slow-selling, unconventional products. So, for the advancement of the industry, local manufacturers want the government to recognise it as non-traditional products so that we can avail incentive.”

Md Abdur Razzaq said that raw materials for medical equipment are very expensive. The government should take it into consideration for the growth of the local manufacturers. The DGDA is going to formulate a policy for the sustainable growth of the sector.”

According to the meeting sources, the DGDA has assured the manufacturers that it will act as an intermediary between the manufacturers’ association and various government departments, directorates and ministries to ensure a favourable environment for the industry.

Sources said that officials from BUET and MIST also attended the meeting and assured the manufacturers that they will provide technical support (lab support) and efficient manpower for the industry.

Mohammad Yousuf, director general of the DGDA, said that to provide medical service at a cheaper rate, it is necessary to produce medical instruments and hospital equipment locally.

“The manufacturers of medical equipment want to take advantage of the technological advancement the country has made in recent years. The country is losing foreign currency due to being import-dependent. We want to change the situation around,” he added.

In the meeting, three decisions were made. Firstly, the DGDA will place a recommendation to the government to allocate land in the economic zone for the medical equipment manufacturers as soon as possible, to provide export facilities to the industry.

Secondly, the DGDA will sit with the commerce and finance ministries, SME Foundation and NBR through the health ministry so that necessary changes can be made to ensure a favourable investment market.

Thirdly, to find out a way to reduce or exempt the taxes manufacturers are paying for importing raw materials.