Business

Jade Sales Drop Significantly at Govt Emporium

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 4 July 2016

RANGOON — Sales of raw jade at the government-run biannual Gems Emporium in Naypyidaw have been markedly lower than in previous years.

Organizers have pointed to slowing Chinese demand as well as a government policy to limit sales of raw jade as a means of boosting value-added jade processing in Burma.

Previously, Chinese traders would flock to Burma to purchase raw jade and re-sell it to processing outfits in China, who would make large profits producing jade bracelets and other ornaments to feed the vast demand in China, where jade is prized as auspicious.

The Myanmar Gems Enterprise, which operates under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, has been staging the emporium for local and foreign buyers from June 24 to July 6 in Burma’s capital city Naypyidaw.

Most foreign buyers have been coming in from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand.

Six thousand lots of raw jade have been laid out for purchase—significantly lower than the 9,000 lots displayed in the previous emporium in December, an official from the Myanmar Gems Enterprise said.

This reduction reflects the government’s intention to cap raw jade sales, but buyers have also shown a reduced appetite.

Min Thu, director of the Myanmar Gems Enterprise, spoke to The Irrawaddy on Monday. “It is only two days till the end of the emporium, but total sales have reached only 427 million euros (US$475 million),” he said, with 3,880 lots purchased so far.

At December’s emporium, sales generated around 900 million euros ($1 billion), according to the Myanmar Gems Enterprise.

“The revenues are obviously lower than last year. The record was in 2014,” Min Thu said.

In July that year, the government and private enterprises sold around 2.6 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in jade to foreign traders, up from about 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in 2013, according to the (now defunct) Ministry of Mines.

Phyo Wai, a jade trader in Mandalay—where large quantities of Burma’s jade are also purchased—told The Irrawaddy: “Traders here have nothing to do because the market is cooling down. Very few jade lots come to the market. Many of our main customers from China have also stopped coming here.”

“Even though we’re sending processed jade accessories to Ruili [on the Chinese side of the border from Muse in northern Shan State], the market is really cooling. We can’t make it. This is not a good time for us,” Phyo Wai said.

Jade traders in Mandalay and Rangoon have primarily blamed the cooling of the jade market on uncertainty linked to the transition of political power in Burma this year, as well as a change in China’s economic policy under President Xi Jinping.

But also significant are attempts by the government to regulate and limit sales of raw jade. Last year, under the previous government, the Myanmar Gems Enterprise enacted regulations requiring foreign traders to demonstrate a minimum balance of 50,000 euros ($55,600) for every one million euros ($1 million) pledged.

The policy was created after several foreign buyers defaulted on enormous bids. Successful bids are usually paid off in monthly installments, but many buyers were falling behind on their debts.

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