Business

Traders Call on Govt to Support Jade Market

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 15 July 2016

RANGOON — Jade traders in Mandalay have collected signatures to accompany a proposal requesting government support for a better jade market, they told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

As Burma’s jade market began to decline last year, traders called on the country’s leadership to address the market situation.

On July 12, traders in Mandalay initiated a signature campaign to collect and send their ideas on how to improve the market to government representatives ranging from State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to Union and regional ministers.

“We’re expecting to get more than 100,000 signatures to send our suggestions to seven parties, as we have seriously suffered the worse jade market situation [in years],” said Aung Win Oo, owner of the Diamond Gold Star jade trading company in Mandalay.

Mandalay jade traders aim to submit signatures and accompanying proposals to government members and political parties before end of July and to coincide with the start of the next session of Parliament.

Jade traders in both Mandalay and Rangoon have attributed the cooling of the jade market to uncertainty linked to the transition of political power from a military-backed to a civilian-led government in Burma earlier this year, as well as shifts in China’s economic policy under President Xi Jinping; merchants from Mainland China are some of the primary purchasers of Burmese jade.

“Many jade lots are going to China via the border area, so the market is bigger on the Chinese side, rather than here,” said Aung Win Oo. “[Here] there are many jade lots piling up and prices are going down—it’s no longer worth it for traders,” he said, adding that some figures indicate that they have a backup of 100,000 jade lots on the local market, which could be displayed and sold over the next three years.

“During that period, the government can take time to review the Gems Law, which could harm the local industry, and reconsider the limiting of jade operations,” Aung Win Oo said.

Kyaw Kyaw Oo, central executive committee member of the Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association said he agreed that the jade market in Burma needs urgent support from the government.

“The main problem is that many jade lots are brought to the Chinese side [of the border] illegally, this is what the government should see and take action on,” Kyaw Kyaw Oo said, adding that the local market in Mandalay remains oversaturated with jade that will not sell.

Another concern among traders is that the government is now attempting to limit jade mining operations in Hpakant, Kachin State, reducing the amount of raw jade entering the market. The restrictions come after hasty jade extraction—aided by heavy machinery—caused multiple deadly landslides in the region, reportedly killing more than 150 people in total last year.

While civil society has urged increased regulation of the industry, traders are critical of the restrictive measures.

“If the government places limitations on the jade mines, less quantities of raw jade will be in the local market. How can we survive in this situation?” Aung Win Oo said.

One significant example of the changes taking place is the annual reduction in displays of raw jade lots at the annual Gems Emporium in Naypyidaw by the Myanmar Gems Enterprise. Six thousand lots of raw jade were laid out for purchase in the latest emporium—significantly lower than the 9,000 lots displayed in the previous emporium in December, according to an official at the event.

Some government figures indicate that the rate of jade sales has fallen significantly each year. The Myanmar Gems Enterprise reported that it earned around 600 million euros (US$668.3 million) in the latest emporium, less than December’s event, where sales generated around 900 million euros (more than $1 billion).

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