KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — The removal of operating limitations on manufacturers, especially glove makers in Malaysia, will be welcome news for governments across the world, says Oxford Business Group (OBG), a global publishing and consultancy company.
As Malaysia meets 65 per per cent of global demand for rubber medical gloves, OBG said this gave some sort of relief to countries that are still struggling to procure personal protection equipment for their frontliners who are fighting COVID-19.
“As manufacturers target productivity gains in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Malaysia is at the forefront of global efforts to meet elevated demand for medical gloves,” it said in a report today.
Most business activity has been severely curtailed since the government introduced a movement control order (MCO) on March 18.
Medical supplies and other products deemed critical to the nation’s interest were initially authorised to operate at 50 per cent capacity.
Medical glove producers were later allowed to apply for special dispensation from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to operate beyond this.
Since yesterday, all such manufacturers have been permitted to operate at full capacity, provided they abide by physical distancing rules and health control guidelines.
OBG said Top Glove Corporation Bhd has reported that orders have more than doubled since the beginning of the outbreak and expected to command 30-35 per cent of the global market this year.
Previously, most overseas orders came from industrialised economies in Asia, but now the world’s biggest supplier of nitrile and latex medical gloves also receives high-volume orders from Europe and the US.
As a result of challenges in sourcing sufficient labour during the MCO, Top Glove and other medical glove manufacturers have sought to improve productivity to keep up with demand.
“Some had already invested in automation and digitalisation prior to the pandemic, which enabled them to partially offset labour shortfalls.
“Nevertheless, lead times have increased considerably due to the combination of increased orders, labour shortages and disruption to supply chains,” OBG said.
Therefore, OBG said investments in automation and digitalisation should help Malaysian medical glove manufacturers cement their position at the forefront of the global industry.
Elevated long-term growth in the industry is expected, as a result of government stockpiling and heightened awareness around personal hygiene, it said.
OBG said the prospects for the industry in Malaysia are underpinned by the country’s 1.7 million hectares of rubber plantations, which produce almost 20 per cent of the world’s natural rubber supply.
Almost 187 billion gloves were produced in 2019 by around 200 factories belonging to Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association’s members.
Depending on the trajectory of the global pandemic, OBG said the association anticipates international demand could reach 345 billion units this year compared to 298 billion in 2019.
Of this total, Malaysia aims to export around 225 billion units, OBG said.
In addition to rubber medical gloves, Malaysia is also the world’s number-one exporter of condoms, another product seeing a COVID-19-related increase in demand.