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Ministry of Commerce launches African diamonds initiative

24
Mar '08
As the first-ever India-Africa conclave organised by the Ministry of External Affairs approaches, the Union Commerce Ministry has, for the first time, taken the initiative to establish systems for the direct imports of rough diamonds from Africa.

To kick-start this initiative, the Minister of State for Commerce, Shri Jairam Ramesh is leading a high-powered delegation to Namibia and Angola beginning March 26th. Joining him are senior representatives of the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).

India must buy rough and uncut diamonds directly from these and other African countries, Shri Jairam Ramesh said on the eve of his six-day trip. He also said that in the next couple of months, he would be visiting other important diamond producing countries like South Africa and Botswana as well.

He emphasised that in future India will find it difficult to source rough diamonds unless it demonstrates to African nations that it will collaborate actively in helping them move up the value-chain and assist in value-addition in these producing countries itself. The Africanisation of the diamonds processing industry is not a threat to India but a great opportunity which we must proactively embrace, Shri Jairam Ramesh explained.

India's estimated imports of rough diamonds in 2007/08 is around $ 10 billion, while estimates of exports of cut and polished diamonds in 2007/08 are about $ 14 billion. It is the world's largest importer of roughs and exporter of cut and polished diamonds with over 90% market share.

“I started this initiative largely because the diamonds cutting and polishing trade is very employment-intensive and provides livelihoods to over 10 lakh families in our country”, Shri Jairam Ramesh added. Rough diamonds are procured presently through a variety of sources with the bulk of it coming into India through Antwerp in Belgium.

Shri Ramesh pointed out that it is in India's long-term interests to establish direct relationships with supplier countries, cutting out all the middlemen. He said that he had opened a dialogue with all major diamond producing countries and Alrossa, the Russian diamond producing company has recently sold roughs directly to Indian buyers. The quantities are small and need to be built up quickly, the Minister of State of Commerce said.


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