While the Korean government says that there will be no problem in the supply of masks amid surging demand for masks due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Korean mask producers are worried about production disruptions as the supply of raw materials from China is blocked.
The Coronavirus Damage Report Center established by the Korea SMEs and Startup Agency said on Feb. 6 that damage reports from small mask producers has recently surged. These companies say that they might face disruptions in mask production as it is difficult to procure raw materials from China
"We import more than 90 percent of the materials for the manufacture of disposable non-woven masks, such as dental masks, from China," said the president of a Korean company that produces dental masks. "We are coming close to using up the inventory. We are keeping in touch with our Chinese partners, who are expected to resume the operation of their production facilities on Feb. 10. It is frustrating that it takes at least one week to get the raw materials, even after the Chinese partners resume operation."
Some experts point out that if the Chinese government does not approve the operation of such factories after Feb. 10, dozens of small Korean mask makers will face the worst situation of having to stop production due to a lack of raw materials. This may make masks more precious and lead to a surge in mask prices.
In particular, as the inventory of dental masks used by medical professionals in hospitals is on a sharp decline, prices of dental masks purchased through distributors of medical supplies have reportedly more than doubled. In fact, even the five largest hospitals in Korea are reportedly having difficulty securing dental masks.
The Korean government says that there are no problems in mask supply as the daily mask production volume stands at 10 million units (based on KF-certified health masks), but small manufacturers and the medical industry are concerned about the possibility of a shortage of raw materials. The Korean government is focused on KF-certified health masks whose materials are relatively easy to get by.