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Published on: May 15, 2022, 4:34 p.m.
We are running at the highest ever primary market share of 83 per cent: Arun Misra
  • Misra: On zinc India is self-reliant and we are fully capable of meeting our requirements

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

Making India a self-reliant nation by boosting the domestic steel and manufacturing sectors – possible policy reforms that will make it truly Atmanirbhar. What is your view?

In the past few years, the government has taken a lot of measures to support a self-reliant India, especially around schemes for the MSME sector, start-up India and the spate of infrastructure projects announced. Going forward the liquidity to the MSME sector will certainly aid the programme for a self-reliant India. On zinc especially, India is self-reliant and we are fully capable of meeting our requirements. We produced 770 KT Zinc in FY22 with a domestic demand of 630 KT. 

What is the impact of China on the global business and commodities market?

The recent economic numbers published for the Chinese economy are not very encouraging and clearly show the impact of Covid-related restrictions. Demand is certainly sluggish at the moment. However, we believe that this is only a temporary phase as fundamentals for most major commodities are very strong as global stockpiles are quite low. Hence, we are keeping ourselves prepared for a surge in demand once lockdown conditions are eased in China

What does the government need to do to stem imports? The CEPA with Japan and Korea is for other products too, so should zinc be excluded?

India has invested very heavily in building a huge capacity for mining and smelting and it is today fully capable of meeting 100 per cent of the domestic demand of 630 KT. However, despite the available capacity, India imports around 150 KT on an average from nations with free trade agreements with it. These are nations with no captive mines or raw material and work on conversion from concentrate to zinc metal with very little value addition. We really need to look into our FTA framework and include the right value addition norms for such imports.

How has Covid-19 changed the supply-demand dynamics for the Indian zinc market? With global trade coming to a near standstill, and rupee depreciation, do you think this would also be a great opportunity to grab market share back from imports?

Certainly, post Covid times have been favourable times for us. We are running at the highest ever primary market share of 83 per cent. The global supply chain disruption has definitely aided this feat. But, apart from the same, we have also elevated our customer service levels through supply reliability. Covid also made us realise the importance of going digital and we launched our e-commerce portal ‘Vedanta Metal Bazaar’ last year with the vision to be 100 per cent online. We have found exceptional adoption of this new digital platform by our customers and we hope to continue this journey to a greater ease of doing business with us.

During the Covid pandemic, zinc supplements were the highest OTC brands sold during the second wave. How is HZL supporting pharma companies to adequately supply raw materials for these supplements?

Several clinical nutritionists have highlighted that zinc plays a pertinent role in treating severe pneumonia and improving antiviral immunity in addition to vitamins C and D. During the second wave HZL had clearly set a priority to first supply chemical/pharma companies which are suppliers for zinc supplements. Raw materials like zinc oxide and zinc sulphate are key to producing these supplements and HZL took all possible actions so that the supply of zinc was streamlined to the pharma companies even with the constraints of logistics and lockdown restrictions.

Moreover, Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology, (MPUAT) Udaipur and HZL and BAIF Institute of Sustainable Livelihood and Development (BAIF LIVELIHOODS) signed an MoU to study the effect of zinc application on crop productivity and soil health, which will further help to tackle the zinc deficiency in humans and soil in India.

The government of India recently announced a PLI scheme for battery manufacturers. How does the zinc industry find itself in the scheme of things when it comes to battery energy storage systems?

India has the perfect opportunity to establish a battery manufacturing ecosystem on the foundation of new technologies that leverage abundantly available indigenous materials like zinc. The Government of India initiative to develop greenfield giga-scale advance cell manufacturing under the PLI (production linked incentive) scheme was released on 22 October, 2021. Under the scheme, 5GWh of cumulative capacity would be offered to niche ACC technologies of higher performance with a minimum threshold capacity of 500 MWh.

The minimum mandatory investment (Rs225 crore/year) outlined in the scheme is for mainstream chemistry. It may be notified separately for niche chemistries; zinc-based batteries have the potential to reach around 18-22 per cent of the overall energy storage capacity expected by 2040 owing to the lower lifecycle cost of these batteries, specifically zinc-bromine (ZnBr) and zinc-air batteries.

Institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET), Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), CSIR-Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CSIRCECRI), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) and National Institute of Technology (NITs) have all been involved in key initiatives for energy storage solutions.

CSIR-CECRI has been involved in the development of Zn-Br (zinc bromine) redox flow batteries, while many institutes have undertaken the development of lithium-ion and other chemistries as well.

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