- Senior industry rep says the way forward in that direction is to focus on ethical and sustainable mining practices of the precious stone
- Urges the need to align industry and businesses with consumer behavioural trends and SDGs
- Digital platforms key to coordinate industry stakeholders and communicate Sri Lanka’s unique story
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
As coronavirus exacerbated the setbacks already faced by Sri Lanka’s gem & jewellery industry, required is a renewed narrative on the sapphire trade, capitalising on the country’s ethical mining practices, for the industry to think of any revival in the post-COVID landscape.
Sri Lanka Gem & Jewellery Association past President Chanaka Ellawala said to uplift the sector and ensure its long-term sustainability, it is essential the sapphire trade come out with a new narrative to captivate global consumers.
He noted the way forward in that direction is to focus on the ethical and sustainable mining practices of the precious stone.
“We must understand that there will be big changes in consumer behaviour. By aligning our industry and our businesses with consumer behavioural trends and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we can create a platform that will move well beyond recovery into a new trajectory of sustainable growth,” Ellawala said.
To recalibrate the industry, the senior industry representative proposed three areas that require emphasis.
He suggested the need to interpret consumer behaviour mega-trends, align the business with SDGs, and rewrite the narrative, not with mere words but with deep meaning.
Further, Ellawala stressed the need to use digital platforms to coordinate with other stakeholders in the industry, to communicate Sri Lanka’s unique story, and to link with customers.
Pointing out there is a “real opportunity” to turn the current apparent disadvantage into a position of advantage, Ellawala called on industry stakeholders to commit to change the narrative from non-renewable to ethical, and from unsustainable to sustainable.
“Let us re-brand sapphire for a new era of growth,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ellawala also highlighted the challenges faced by the already struggling sector that requires immediate attention and action by the relevant authorities.
“We have cumbersome export procedures. We do not have access to popular payment gateways such as Paypal or AliPay, which are essential for online selling. There are also logistical challenges, which the industry and authorities must resolve very quickly to support the short-term survival and recovery of the industry,”he pointed out.
Data from Sri Lanka Customs show that for the January - April 2020 period, Sri Lanka’s diamond, gem & jewellery sector exports reached a cumulative figure of US$ 54.44 million, a 47.62 percent contraction compared to the earnings fetched in the corresponding period of 2019.
Particularly, April 2020 export earnings plunged 94 percent to record mere US$ 1.06 million compared to US$ 16.83 million in April 2019.