The Ministry of Commerce and Industry will go ahead with the proposal for 2D bar-coding and a unique ‘randomly generated numeric code’ on packets of medicine destined for export, a senior official said.

According to P.V. Appaji, the executive director of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil, the ministry has set March 31 as the date for receiving objections and suggestions from the Pharma industry, which is opposing the move.

“The government will go ahead with implementation of the bar coding. However, the ministry has asked the industry to come out with their problems before March 31. Bar coding is fixed and the government will implement it as per schedule,” Mr. Appaji said.

The Commerce Ministry had recently made it mandatory for all medicines manufactured and exported out of the country to have a barcode from July 1.

Department of Commerce Additional Secretary Rajeev Kher held a meeting on March 10 with the representatives of pharmaceutical companies Torrent, Lupin and Fortis India, along with officials of Pharmexcil, sources said.

The Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has made it mandatory for drug-makers to print a barcode on every product exported out of the country in the wake of overseas allegations that some local firms ship out counterfeit medicines.

Exports of pharmaceuticals from India stood at Rs. 40,000 crore last fiscal and are expected to witness a growth of 20 per cent this year.

The industry is opposing the move, saying it would incur an additional cost on the bar-coding procedure.

Any value edition to the product would affect pricing, said an official of city-based Natco Pharma.

“As it is, we have been facing serious competition from China on all fronts. Barcoding needs additional investment on manpower as well as machinery and thus puts pressure on pricing,” Natco Pharma Company Secretary and General Manager M. Adinarayana said.

Mr. Appaji said as per government estimates, bar-coding would cost 30 paisa per strip. “Putting barcode on primary packing is difficult and expensive, but secondary and outer layer of the export package will be acceptable for the industry,” he said.

The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) recently indicated that it would make it mandatory for medicines intended for domestic supply to also bear barcodes. However, the government is yet to come out with an order in this regard.