The government has delayed its decision to buy washable face masks from domestic garment factories, with producers left waiting for purchase orders after the government failed to decide which state agencies would shoulder the expense.
The government previously asked garment factories to sell masks for five baht a piece, much lower than the production cost of 50-100 baht depending on materials. But Somsak Srisuponvanit, chairman of the textile industry club under the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said factories are still waiting for the government to send purchase orders for the masks to the club. “Manufacturers are ready to produce the washable facial masks to serve demand needs domestically, but the factories cannot make a decision if the government has not given us a purchase order,” Mr Somsak said.
The FTI has vowed to support the government in overcoming shortages in Thailand, but it remains concerned by delays. “The textile industry is not taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak, but textile producers have to pay for labour, energy and machinery,” Mr Somsak said.
He said the club’s members can produce 10 million washable facial masks for the government by the end of March. A March 5 meeting brought together state agencies, textile and garment makers, sewing factories, the FTI and the Thailand Textile Institute to discuss the coronavirus outbreak. Somkid Jatusripitak, the deputy prime minister, ordered garment and textile factories in Thailand to prepare materials to make face masks to serve growing demand and overcome shortages.
The ministry plans to give out 30 million masks or three per person, free of charge, in the Bangkok metro area to combat chronic shortages. Mr Somsak said the textile industry club has more than 100 member companies. Some companies are changing their production lines from cloth for fashion to materials for masks, he said.