Export data available on the commerce ministry indicates that India’s vaccine exports have considerably increased starting 2010-11. Between 2010-11 and 2019-20, India’s human vaccine exports in rupee terms have increased from around Rs. 871 crores to Rs. 5723 crores.
In a recent tweet, India’s External Affairs Minister updated about the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Botswana. This is among a series of updates from the External Affairs Minister and the Ministry about India’s export of COVID-19 vaccine to many countries, including – Jamaica, Tajikistan, Belize, Guyana, Panama, Ethiopia, etc. to name among others. The government of India has termed this initiative ‘Vaccine Maitri’ and is being promoted as a diplomatic achievement.
Speaking at the Asia Economic Dialogue on 26 February 2021, the External Affairs Minister has stated that India is currently supplying the vaccine to 74 countries, of which 31 countries have already received the vaccine while the rest are in pipeline.
India’s potential in vaccine production and its capability of exports is also being attributed to the achievements of the current government by various sections. As per the information provided by World Bank, India ranked 8th in the world in terms of the value of exports of ‘Vaccines for Human Medicine’ in 2019.
Is India’s favourable position in global exports of vaccines & its vaccine production capabilities a recent achievement as being projected? In this story, we take a detailed look at the data relating to India’s vaccine exports over the last 15 years and analyse the trends.
After a decline during 2016-18, India recorded a positive growth in 2018-19
As per the information available with the Department of Commerce’s Export Import Data Bank, during 2019-20, India has exported ‘Vaccines for Human Medicine’ (HS Code: 300220) worth Rs. 5.72 thousand crores to 177 countries. This is an increase of around 25% compared to the previous year i.e., 2018-19, where-in vaccines worth Rs. 4.55 thousand crores were exported. The exports in 2019-20 are the greatest value of exports of vaccines in a single year so far.
Even in terms of volume, the growth rate during 2019-20 is also the best in the recent past. In fact, India reported a fall in exports of vaccines by value terms during two successive years i.e., 2016-17 & 2017-18, only to recover starting 2018-19. The fall in exports during 2016-18, is in contrast to the continuous growth in exports of vaccines since 2010-11, the year after which India’s vaccine exports really took off. The year 2011-12 reported a record growth both in terms of value & volume.
As per the latest information available as of 10 March 2021, India has exported Rs. 4.02 thousand crores worth of vaccines in 2020-21, i.e., nearly 30% less than the previous year. However, with India expected to increase its supply of vaccines to other countries, this number could improve by the end of the year when accurate overall figures would be available.
India exports the highest value of human vaccines to countries like Nigeria, Brazil & Bangladesh
With the exception of two years (2014-15 & 2018-19), Nigeria is the country to which the highest value of human vaccines was exported by India during the 10-year period between 2010-11 and 2019-20. During those two years, Nigeria ranked 2nd and 4th respectively in terms of the value of vaccine exports by India.
Data indicates that there has been a considerable increasing trend in India’s human vaccine exports from 2010-11. Even prior to that, Nigeria has been one of the countries to which the highest vaccine exports were made. In 2019-20, vaccine exports to Nigeria accounted for 10% of India’s total vaccine exports. However, its proportion has varied over the years.
- Recently, the President of Brazil thanked India for sending the vaccine for COVID-19. This is a continuation of Brazil being one of India’s key Vaccine export partners. Especially, over the past five years, Brazil has been among the top two countries in terms of India’s vaccine export destinations.
- Another country to which India has increased its exports of vaccines is Indonesia. For the year 2018-19, the highest exports in value terms were made to Indonesia, overtaking both Nigeria & Brazil.
- India’s two immediate neighbours i.e., Bangladesh & Pakistan among the top-5 countries to which vaccines are exported by India. They have featured consistently in the top-5 in recent years.
- African & Latin American countries form a majority of the countries to which Human Vaccines are exported by India. Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Algeria, etc. are among the African countries to which the highest value of vaccines is exported.
- Colombia, Peru, Argentina along with Mexico are among the Latin American countries to which India exports vaccines.
In 2004-05, India was already exporting Human Vaccines to around 145 countries. In 2019-20, India exported to around 175 countries. The significant improvement observed especially after the turn of the previous decade (2010-11) has been in terms of the value than in terms of spread.
For a major part, the increase in the value of exports in the past decade has been with the countries to which India already had a higher value of exports. However, over the years, there have been specific instances, when a higher volume of vaccines was exported in a particular year to a particular country in contrast to the general trend.
MMR & other Mixed Vaccine occupied the major share of the Human Vaccine exports from India
The export Category ‘Vaccines for Human Medicine’ (HS Code: 300220) is the broader export category under which all the vaccines which are related to human medicine are listed. The Export-Import data has further sub-categorization of the multiple vaccines that India exports.
Among the sub-categorization provided in the data, the greatest export value of vaccines is under ‘Other Mixed Vaccine’. This is followed by ‘Mixed Vaccine for MMR’ which has the second-highest export value.
Among the single vaccines, the highest export value is of the ‘Vaccine for Polio’. Over the years, the export value of the single vaccine for – ‘Cholera & Typhoid’, ‘TB’, ‘Hepatitis-B’ has increased.
Overall, India’s vaccine exports data shows that a major portion of the exports is under the category of ‘Other Mixed Vaccine’. However, when we analyse the data for the specific vaccines, ‘Vaccine for Polio’, ‘Cholera & typhoid’ are among the most exported ones to various countries including African & Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc.
India relies on API imports for production of Vaccines
As the data indicates, India has managed to increase the value of vaccine exports to various countries over the last 10-years. This points to an increase in the domestic manufacturing capability to meet the global demand. Further, as highlighted earlier, the Indian government is leveraging the country’s vaccine manufacturing capabilities to produce and export vaccines for COVID-19 to other countries to improve its global standing.
However, some of the vaccines that are being produced here are not indigenously developed and India is more of a manufacturing hub, like in the case of Covishield being manufactured by the Serum Institute.
In spite of India’s increased prowess in vaccine manufacturing, the lack of indigenously developed vaccines is being highlighted as one of the challenges for the industry in the future. Another challenge is the reliance on imports for raw materials. In an earlier story, we have highlighted India’s overreliance on imports of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API).
Over the past decade or more, India made great strides in developing into a major hub for manufacturing and exporting vaccines & pharma products. The government needs to focus on investing in research to develop indigenous vaccines. At the same time, it needs to encourage domestic manufacturing of raw materials to reduce the reliance on imports. The recent ‘Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme’ announced by the government for the 10 key sectors including pharma is the right step in this direction.
Featured Image: India’s Vaccine exports