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This Is the Reality of Face Mask Companies and Vendors in 2023

At LatinAmerican Post, we gave a brief account of how the face mask trade is lived now that the restrictions due to COVID-19 are fewer and fewer in the world.

Person holding surgical mask

Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez Hernández

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The COVID-19 pandemic, which began at the end of 2019 and has continued to date (although with less force), represented a health crisis without precedent in the 21st century in 2020 and 2021.

According to the Johns Hopkins University report (one of the most accurate in terms of recording pandemic figures), more than 6.8 million people have died to date from the new coronavirus. Furthermore, the virus has been present in more than 671 million human beings across the planet.

Now, what for the majority of the world's population was a threat, for others this situation was seen as an opportunity ; or at least one that would make it more viable to stay economically afloat in the midst of the crisis.

Seeing the reality in which the world was immersed, both corporate giants and small and medium-sized entrepreneurs began to seek and create offer options that would help them earn money in the pandemic. The masks were the star product. Whether it was because before 2019 they had a catalog of face masks or, on the contrary, they began to venture into this market during the health crisis, thousands of companies around the world saw salvation in this health protection tool for the harsh economic situation.

For example, the Chilean designer Luz Briceño went from creating clothing to designing a collection of masks whose antibacterial element was copper. For her part, Francis Murillo, a Venezuelan who was engaged in the laser cutting and 3D printing business, saw in the pandemic the opportunity to produce protective visors, one of the tools most used by the medical team during the pandemic.

However, with the widespread use of vaccines, people were gradually able to say “goodbye” to mandatory quarantines and finally face masks (or masks, as they are known in some countries). This, of course, set off a chain reaction in which these types of materials became less and less frequent in their purchases.

It may interest you: What is the Controversy with the Prices and Profits of Moderna and Pfizer Vaccines?

What Happened to the Companies that Sold Masks?

To speak of the companies that sell face masks have finished would be inaccurate, taking into account that there are still several sectors that need this resource. Hospitals are its main market.

However, it is clear that the demand is no longer the same compared to 2020 and 2021, when stratospheric levels were observed. Only in Colombia, “it was so much the heyday of the manufacture of masks, that we even made to sell abroad. 70% of the sector's exports were due to sales by textile manufacturing companies," explained Camilo Rodríguez, president of the Colombian Chamber of Clothing and Related Products.

Today the situation is different. In May 2022, when the restriction measures were completely withdrawn, Rodríguez predicted that the 6,000 to 7,500 jobs focused solely on the manufacture of face masks could end in the country.

But not only Colombia lives this situation. In Spain, the regions of Navarra and La Rioja have been in serious trouble due to the large number of masks stored in their respective territories. The Government of Navarra and private companies have decided to store the 1.7 million stagnant masks, hoping to reach an economic solution that benefits both parties. La Rioja made the decision to leave the more than 2.6 million face masks that they have, giving them away to social and health groups, organizations and associations, before they expire.

And the Sellers?

In the midst of this equation, in which manufacturers and demand are important, there is a protagonist whose relevance is often minimized: sellers. And not necessarily those that are part of large companies, but those that market this product informally.

“I bought by packages and sold whole packages or by piece, but it ended very quickly. So far this year (2022) they have begun to sell much less, since only in schools or in some public places they ask for them as an essential requirement, one can see on the street that people no longer use them. As long as they are not required, people will stop needing and buying them," explained a merchant for a local Mexican outlet.

For her part, Carolina Alonso, administrator of the company Termosellados Malu, a micro-enterprise that was born in the midst of the pandemic, assured that “our sales fell by 70%. In addition, from being almost 20 employees, now we are only four. For this reason, we will try to sell as much as possible to support the staff”.

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