RANGOON — Jade sales at Burma’s major gems emporium held in Naypyidaw last week have surpassed expectations and reached about 2.6 billion euro (US $3.4 billion), up from about 2 billion euro ($2.6 billion) last year, a Ministry of Mines official said.
A senior official at Ministry’s Myanma Gems Enterprise told The Irrawaddy that some 6,000 jade lots had been sold during auctions at the 10-day emporium, which ended Sunday.
“I can say that sales have surpassed the target. Although the number of lots sold has been less than last year, the total sales amount has been more than last year because the [international] jade price is high,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
“This year’s emporium is more successful than last year’s,” he added. Ahead of this year’s event, officials had said they expected sales to total around 2 billion euro. (Payments at the government-organized event are carried out in euros).
Jade dealers and craftsmen in Hong Kong said earlier this year that price for raw Burmese jade are soaring—and that their businesses were suffering—due to concerns over a drying up of supplies from the jade-mining town Hpakant, in Kachin State.
At this year’s emporium 7,160 lots were occupied by private miners and government-owned enterprises, which offered blocks of raw jade for sale, but only about 6,000 lots were sold.
The highest-valued lot, a 233-kilogram piece of raw jade valued at about 46 million euro, was not sold by its owner, the Mandalay-based Tharyar Kyinue Phew Company.
Traders could also choose from about 400 lots of other gemstones and 200 pearl lots. More than 4,000 traders from mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan are attending the emporium, the Ministry of Mines has said.
Total sales at the Myanmar Gems Emporium 2014 stood at 2.6 billion euro, compared to about 2 billion in 2013, even though this year’s emporium offered fewer jade lots for sale compared to last year, according to the Myanma Gems Enterprise official.
In 2013, 10,000 lots were on offer and in 2012 about 15,000 lots were available for sale. Up until 2012, the government organized three emporiums per year, but since 2013 only one annual emporium has been set up.
The reduction in the number of lots and frequency of the sales events is part of a government strategy to reduce the large-scale selling of a raw jade from Burma and keep more jade in the country for added-value processing.
Currently, most raw jade is exported to China, where it is much prized by dealers and craftsmen who carve it into traditional Chinese sculptures and jewelry.
The Burmese government last year said it planned to establish a jade and gemstone center in Naypyidaw, where it hoped traders and investors would open stores and processing industries.
The Gems Entrepreneurs Association is reportedly working with Chinese technicians to raise the value of processed jade and gems.
Burma produces the vast majority of the world’s jade. Most is sourced from Hpakant, 350 kilometers north of Mandalay, in the conflict-torn mountains of Kachin State.
Trade in the precious stones is highly controversial. Competing claims over the jade mines have helped fuel a war between the government’s army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
After fighting broke out in 2011, the government suspended large-scale mining operations in the area. Small-scale miners and hand-pickers moved in illegally to try their luck.
Like Burma’s rampant timber trade, most of the country’s jade is sold unregulated and smuggled into China, according to researchers.
Ministry of Commerce trade data provided to The Irrawaddy last year showed that jade was the country’s second-biggest source of revenue after natural gas in 2011-2012, valued at about $780 million. However, a July 2013 report by the Ash Center at Harvard University in the United States put the value sales of Burmese jade as high as $8 billion in 2011.
The discrepancy in these data suggests that most of the jade flows over the border unregulated and untaxed.