Food Marketing and Technology Magazine, India had an opportunity to interact with Sanjay Bhatia, President, Metal Container Manufacturers Association. Metal container manufacturers have been facing shortfall of basic raw materials ‘tinplate’ because of which they have suffered losses. Tinplate is used in food and beverage industry. The President has some messages for the Government to give boost to this industry.  

1. Could you start by telling us about the MCMA and its objectives?

Ans- MCMA is an Association of Metal Container Manufacturers, Machinery manufacturers, decoration material suppliers and other stake holders like traders who are dealers of its raw material like Tinplate/Tin Free steel etc. The main objective of the Association is to promote use of Metal Packaging in India and also represent to the Policy makers regarding the issues faced by the industry.

2. What does BIS stand for and what is the reason behind its implementation?

Ans- BIS stands for Bureau of Indian Standards. BIS comes under Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the primary purpose of this Authority is to ensure that whatever is manufactured, consumed and sold in India, it follows certain standards as laid down by  Govt. or any other Authority. BIS standards are generally based on International Standards (ISO).  Mostly these standards are work as a guideline to the manufacturers of relevant goods and is subject to the agreement between buyer and seller.  However, the Government from time to time issues notifications/QCOs making such BIS standards mandatory. The standard as laid down by BIS are generally for the goods manufactured or imported into India, whereby the manufacturer of such goods has to get its manufacturing facilities approved by the BIS and obtain a license from BIS to manufacture BIS marked products.

3. Due to the shortage of tinplate, how much has the food industry suffered, any qualitative figures?

Ans- Quantitative figures are not available. However, the shortage has been felt quite substantially. Also, people have started to shift to alternative modes of packaging – mainly plastic, knowing fully well that metal packaging is most sustainable. Because they want their products to reach end consumers and they cannot wait endlessly for metal containers.

Most importantly, MCMA Members have lost season 2020 of mango fruit processing on account of lockdown. Some of them had made containers before lockdown was imposed, but could not deliver the material to the customers due to total shut down during mango season in 2020.

Similarly, 2021 has also been lost, this time due to non-availability of basic raw material, tinplate. Now Members will have to wait for another year for the mango season. This has hurt many of our Member manufacturers and they lost heavily. Similar situations exist for other fruit juices as well.

Further, non-availability of TFS on regular basis have affected the supply of caps & closures to the beer & beverage industry.

Food processing & other food packing users could not get easy open ends, etc on account of ban on imports due to BIS. Indian manufacturers solely depend on imports of easy open ends, etc for supply of these components. This has caused a tremendous shortage of Easy Open Ends, which has led to MCMA Members losing business and revenue.

4. Which are the food products that are depended on tinplate packaging?

Ans- Milk powder, Baby Food Edible oil, Vanaspati, Process food, cold coffee, cheese, fruit juices, cashew & dry fruits, fish etc., are some of the items packed in metal containers.

Cooking oil is packed in 15 lit tins.

Cut fruits & vegetables packaging in metal containers has not picked up in India. But across the globe, this is very big business.

5. What is the total market size of tinplate based food packaging in India?

Ans- Total metal packaging is approx. Rs.10, 000 crores P.A. and food packaging is the major consumer.

6. What are the benefits of using tinplate in food packaging?

Ans- Product protection is the primary benefit.

Metal packaging is an excellent barrier to moisture & oxygen.

Preserves the original nutrients of food, fruits & vegetables and hence food packed in metal containers are much tasty than frozen fruits & vegetables.

Food packed in metal containers is absolutely safe. Shelf Life increases by more than 50%.

As metal containers do not break, they are excellent for transportation. Can withstand shocks & vibrations during transportation as well.

Metal is the most recyclable and reusable packaging medium. Very sustainable.

Hot filling can be done in metal containers and there is no need to add preservatives to the food before packaging.

Food packed in metal packaging can be stored in deep freezers for longer periods without breakage or damaging the food.

7. What has been the Government’s stand on shortage issue when you brought this topic to the Steel Ministry’s notice?

Ans- The issue has been highlighted to various Ministries like Ministry of MSME, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Food Processing and Ministry of Steel.  It is an acceptable fact that there is a demand supply gap about 2 to 2.50 lakh M/t per annum between the demand of the industry and domestic availability. The Industry needs both prime /non-prime material for edible and non-edible products as explained above.  Prime material is used for manufacture of cans which are used for packing various food products as mentioned above. While non-prime material which is an arising during manufacture of prime material by tinplate mills is mainly used for non-edible/non critical products like paints, chemical, stationery products etc.  The current Government stand is that the domestic producers will upgrade its facilities to meet the entire demand which obviously the metal packaging industry do not have confidence as for many years the demand supply gap is continuing  and no serious steps have been taken by local producers.   Since in this QCO steel products like Easy open ends, domes and cones for aerosol cans, closures are also covered and the domestic availability of these products are virtually not there and industry depends on imports for such products.

Due to COVID even some Foreign Companies who have applied for getting BIS Licence, no action has been taken by BIS.  Therefore, the industry is currently passing through a serious crises for the shortage of raw material in the one hand and exorbitant increase in the prices of Tinplate/Tin free steel on the other.