Sri Lanka’s gem and jewellery industry is seeking government assistance in finding new markets for its products, following the April 21 Easter Sunday bombings, which dealt a severe blow to the industry with the slowing down of
“Due to the tragic happenings of April 21, the industry has suffered a crucial bow, especially the segment of the industry which caters to tourism. We have appealed to the government to support these merchants in theirtime of need.
Following the recent dip in the Chinese market, we have put forth a proposal to the government and EDB to extend our trade relations to countries such as Austria, Korea, Taiwan, Azerbaijan, Dubai and Kazakhstan. We look forward to the government’s corporation in uplifting the industry,” Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Association Chairman Ahsan Refai said.
In the case of local trade, he pointed out that the Easter Sunday bombings and political uncertainty have had an extremely negative effect on consumerism.
“Due to the tragic events of April 21, there has been a significant lack of interest when it comes to purchasing nonessential and luxury items. The industry is not faring that well in the international sphere either. Foreign business traveller arrivals to the country have drastically reduced. The gem and jewellery merchants, who have thus far catered to the tourism sector, have found themselves in dire straits and are looking to the government for support.
At this juncture, the government has introduced income tax to the industry, which enables our merchants to take the value-added rough that is mined in Africa to Hong Kong and Thailand,” Refai said. Meanwhile, he explained how the expansion of African gem mining is posing a competitive threat to the local industry, especially since Africa boasts a vast land area and the gemstones found there are similar to those of Sri Lanka. However, Africa also produces immense quantities of rough, which is a weak point in the Sri Lankan industry. Thus, a trade partnership was formed with Africa, which sees Sri Lanka receive imports of rough on a regular basis.
“Our dealers have been successful in travelling to African countries such as Madagascar, Tanzania, Mozambique and Nigeria to purchase the rough and conduct the value addition services in Sri Lanka,” Refai said.
Sri Lanka is currently the primary supplier of sapphires to the world. Besides the locally mined products, a large amount of African goods is re-exported via Sri Lanka following value-adding services such as cutting and polishing.