China’s API makers restart manufacturing, but logistics disruptions hinder shipping

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/25 12:20:45

A medical worker from Shijiazhuang traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) hospital fetches medicines on a mobile hospital in Chang'an District of Shijiazhuang City, north China's Hebei Province on March 12, 2020. A mobile hospital of traditional Chinese medicine provides health services for local residents amid the fight against the COVID-19.Photo:Xinhua

China's manufacturers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for export recently resumed production, as coronavirus-struck markets such as the US and EU have a serious shortage of the ingredients due to manufacturing halts and disrupted supply chains.

An overseas sales representative at Zhejiang Guobang Pharmaceuticals Co told the Global Times on Tuesday that the company has fully resumed production.

He said overseas demand is now "stable," but logistics have been a huge problem when shipping products overseas amid COVID-19, noting that they encountered delays and cargo being stuck during flight or train transfers overseas.

The company's products have been exported to 103 countries and regions around the world including the US and Europe. The company's major products include quinolone antibacterial drugs, macrolides antibacterial drugs and cephalosporin antibacterial drugs, according to the company website.

Another API agency based in Beijing told the Global Times on Tuesday that the company partially resumed exports in late February and the pace of exports accelerated in mid-March with the surge in overseas demand. 

"Almost everyone in our firm works around the clock to deal with export business," said a deputy manager of the company surnamed Li, noting that "without China's supply, the US and some other countries will have no drugs over the next several months."

The US, India, some Southeast Asian countries and Japan are highly reliant upon China's supply of APIs, said Tao Jianhong, a pharmaceutical market observer.

"Some regions in China, like East China's Shandong Province, are rich in APIs such as starch and maize, and these regions are big exporters of APIs," Tao told the Global Times.

According to a report from, 80 percent of the US market supply of antibiotics is manufactured in China. In particular, the US imports about 95 percent of its ibuprofen and 91 percent of its acetaminophen from China, while 40-45 percent of the country's penicillin is made in China. 

China exported 665,400 tons of APIs to the US in 2019 despite the trade war, a drop of 10.99 percent year-on-year, but with the export price up by 10.96 percent, according to data from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Medicines & Health Products.


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