India imported around 77 per cent of its solar cells (photovoltaic cells) from China in the current fiscal year. This has been the trend in the past four years.
However, Union Minister for Power R.K. Singh announced on July 3 that the Centre would not allow imports for the power sector from China and Pakistan. The decision was taken following tensions on the Indo-China border.
The country imported solar cells worth approximately $11.79 billion from China in the current fiscal year (April to December). The total imports of solar cells stood at $15.25 billion for the same period.
In 2019, the solar imports were worth $21.59 billion overall while China’s share was 78.7 per cent or $16.94 billion. In 2017 and 2018, the share of Chinese imports was almost 90 per cent. These imports include both assembled and separate modules of the cells. The import of solar products from China was $34.18 billion and $28.17 billion in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Total import for the same period was $70.33 billion, combined for two years.
Due to high dependence on China, the country started bearing the brunt since March as the production and transportation of equipment were impeded due to the COVID-19 outbreak in China.
The Power Minister had also stated that the disruption in supply chains due to the spread of COVID should be considered ‘a case of natural calamity’.
India had only 98 solar panel/module manufacturing facilities as on April 2018, according to the Union Ministry of Power.
Unavailability of manufacturing base, limited market assurance due to WTO restrictions, and higher cost of manufacturing were cited as reasons for preference to Chinese solar products over Indian ones, as per a written reply by the Minister in the Lok Sabha.