As public health experts predict COVID-19 continuing to be a factor into 2021, companies and government bodies in the United States are looking to stock up on personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their people and keep society “open for business.”
In an important development to watch, Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are becoming more prominent in the PPE production sector. These countries offer relatively simple customs export systems, which are not plagued by excessive delays – a significant advantage. As a result, production in rubber-based goods like gloves and gowns has increased dramatically there in order to meet the increased demand.
“We believe the demand will be so significant that customers are urged to make PPE orders as early as possible, given how prices have skyrocketed in anticipation of a second wave,” said Anthony Fullbrook, U.S. East Region President here at OEC Group. “We also recommend that our customers purchase cargo insurance to protect shipments, given the recent trend of PPE freight theft and damage from an overly stressed supply chain.”
PPE manufacturing in this market is reaching a fevered pitch. Surgical masks, which research has shown are more effective at COVID-19 protection than cloth masks, are among the wide variety of products made and sold by vendors in the region. But with cargo space being sold at a premium, importing the products in the most cost-efficient means possible has become a significant challenge. Therefore, customers need to work with someone who understands the terrain, offers significant connections in the region, and has access to highly competitive pricing. Those traits will be the difference between companies that either thrive or dive in this environment.
“As demand for PPE continues to intensify, Southeast Asia will be playing a more important role in PPE exports,” Fullbrook added. “As we survey the global market to make sure our customers get the best deals on PPE, we will be closely watching Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand for more opportunities to pursue.”