| A GEM OF AN IDEA
New Delhi, June 6: India is working on a two-way arrangement for rough diamonds with some African countries. The plan is to procure diamonds from these countries in return for incentives to strengthen their gems and jewellery industry. The countries are Botswana, Angola, South Africa, Ghana and Namibia.
Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for commerce, said India would assist the African countries under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme of the ministry of external affairs.
India is trying to source rough diamonds directly from the countries that mine them. In the last six months, diamonds worth $15 million to $20 million have been procured, of which a major share came from Russia’s Alrosa.
The commerce ministry is in touch with Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Canada, Australia, Congo and Ghana for the direct purchase of diamonds. According to Sanjay Kothari, chairman of the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, the move will result in cost benefits of 4-5 per cent.
India has offered technical support and skills training to Africa’s top diamond and gold producing nations, including South Africa.
Ramesh has held discussions with the mission heads of some African nations in New Delhi, including those of South Africa, Ghana and Namibia. A business delegation is likely to visit these countries to formalise the arrangement.
“Almost all gold and diamonds sold or processed in India are imported. Having arrangements with the top diamond and gold producing nations will help this sector thrive. The aim is to make India a global hub for the diamond market,” Ramesh said.
Africa alone accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the world’s diamond production. Ramesh said India was looking at South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Namibia and Angola for rough diamonds. Traditionally, most of the diamonds come from Antwerp, Belgium. Now other suppliers are interested in exporting uncut stones to Indian companies, he added.
In 2006-07, India imported diamonds worth $9 billion and gold worth $11 billion. The country is the largest diamond cutting and polishing centre in the world. It is also the largest consumer of gold.
“Though we are working towards developing our resources in Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, it will take 5-10 years. However, it will still not be enough to meet our demands. This African initiative will give a boost to the Indian gem and jewellery industry,” Ramesh said.