Supergum stepped in to produce COVID-19 masks for Israelis but might close

"In India they protect local industry by ensuring the state will purchase Indian-made services & goods in tenders up to $25 m." Supergum CEO Yaniv Hadd said. "What’s our policy– to throw money away."

The Supergum-made masks got a lot of compliments from dentists, nurses, and security guards, but they cost 20 agorot more than a Chinese-made mask (photo credit: OR KAPLAN)
The Supergum-made masks got a lot of compliments from dentists, nurses, and security guards, but they cost 20 agorot more than a Chinese-made mask
(photo credit: OR KAPLAN)
Supergum, an Israeli manufacturer of protective clothing, rubber, plastic and sealing products, might be forced to shut down its COVID-19 mask production line in November unless the government decides it is in the national interest, CEO Yaniv Hadad said Thursday.
The company’s production line is capable of making 10 million to 15 million masks per month. It was created at the request of the government with machinery imported from China, which some 75 workers were trained to operate.
The masks are produced by Supergum’s daughter company Safetech, which normally makes gas masks and protective gear for the IDF. They contain three layers of protection and filter 98% of inhaled content, Hadad said.
“To produce them, I buy material produced in Dimona that goes through a special treatment to make it extra soft for human skin, since they usually use it to make baby diapers,” he said. “Clients who use our masks always say it’s more pleasant to wear than other masks, and so they keep it on for much longer.”
“I’m not trying to compete with China in the private market.” Hadad said. “They can sell a mask for 20 agorot, and I need to ask for 40 agorot. What I am saying is that the state asked me to step in and answer this need, and now it is morally obligated to purchase from me.”
“I invested millions [of shekels] to set up this production line,” he said. “What will happen in November when the orders run out?”
When winter sets in, it is more likely that demand for masks will increase due to the novel coronavirus and the common cold.
The Supergum website has many comments written by employees from the Health and Defense ministries who say the masks are superb quality.
“The mask is pleasant, comfortable, airy and easy to use,” a nurse wrote.
They do not itch and are a “source of pride for Israeli industry,” a hospital staff member told the company.
Texts also came from dentists and security guards.
In July, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the various ministries to purchase Israeli-made goods and services whenever possible.
“We regret to say that we don’t see the instruction of the prime minister taking place on the ground,” Hadad wrote in a public letter to Economy Minister Amir Peretz and other government officials on Sunday.
“The various government offices are buying imported masks, and the annual budget... which stands at tens of billions of shekels, benefits Chinese and other manufacturers, while the Israeli industry is standing at the edge of the abyss,” he wrote.
“In India, they protect local industry by ensuring the state will purchase Indian-made services and goods in tenders up to $25 million,” Hadad told The Jerusalem Post. “What’s our policy? To throw money away? To give a person NIS 7,000 when he could work for me [if I can keep production going]?”
In response to a request for comment, the Economy Ministry told the Post it encourages supporting Israeli industry and buying locally made goods but does not purchase masks or other medical gear.