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Panic buying medicine to benefit Singapore pharmaceutical exports

Samantha Chiew
Samantha Chiew8/28/2020 12:49 PM GMT+08  • 2 min read
Panic buying medicine to benefit Singapore pharmaceutical exports
Covid-19 caused panic buying in the pharmaceutical industry and Singapore is benefitting
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The pharmaceutical industry is an increasingly important component of Singapore's manufacturing sector. And the pharmaceutical exports are a bright spot for Singapore's economy, as the Covid-19 pandemic drives demand, according to Fitch Solutions in an August 27 report.

Furthermore, the Singapore government has placed a focus on the development of innovative pharmaceuticals, making its long-term ambition.

With Singapore aiming to grow its pharmaceutical industry, it is no wonder why the number of people working for pharmaceutical companies has increased, despite overall decrease in employment in the manufacturing sector over the years, according to the Economic Development Board (EDB).

Similarly, while the value of fixed asset investments has decreased for most industries, a total of $440 million was spent by pharmaceutical companies in 2017, up from $197 million in 2012. Singapore now has more than 50 pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, including plants owned by eight of the world’s ten biggest pharmaceutical firms.

Singapore is one of the few countries that has a positive pharmaceutical trade balance. In 2019, the city state exported medicine with a value of US$8.1 billion ($11.1 billion), with the leading destinations being Switzerland, the Netherlands and the US. During the year, Singapore imported pharmaceuticals with a value US$3.1 billion, with the leading countries of origin being the US, France and Germany.

This year, with the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore’s exports of pharmaceutical products surged as pharmaceutical companies were panic buying drug ingredients. In May 2020, it was reported that pharmaceutical output in Singapore has spiked 86% so far, while export data for April 2020 showed pharmaceutical shipments surged 174% from the same month a year earlier, albeit from a low base.

According to How Ti Hwei, president of the Singapore Association of Pharmaceutical Industries, “companies and governments around the world are building large inventories of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and drugs to ensure supplies of medicines remain uninterrupted and can be made close to market.” The United States, Europe, and Japan were Singapore’s biggest export destinations for APIs in recent months.

Pfizer stated that it had witnessed a tremendous increase in demand for anti-infectives which it produces in Singapore and elsewhere.

Pharmaceutical production and exports will be a boon for Singapore’s overall manufacturing and trade environment. Its biomedical industry, which employs more than 24,000 people, accounted for about 20% of the manufacturing sector in 2019 which in turn accounted for about a fifth of GDP.

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