MMCZ courts Chinese diamond investors

HARARE - Government is considering partnering the Chinese in setting up a diamond cutting and polishing centre in Zimbabwe.

Christopher Mutsvangwa, Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) chairperson, told businessdaily that diamond experts from the Asian country were expected in the country this week to assess and assist in the setting up of the venture — to be based in Harare.

“The establishment of the centre is a big leap in the local diamond industry as Zimbabwe will soon be selling jewellery instead of exporting rough diamonds,” Mutsvangwa said.

He said government’s strategic aim is to promote local cutting and polishing of diamonds as well as manufacture of retail diamond jewellery, as Zimbabwe intensifies efforts to realise more from its minerals.

Mutsvangwa said MMCZ has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the visiting Chinese diamond industry stakeholders. This comes as government imposed that at least 10 percent of Zimbabwe’s rough diamond output — approximately 8,5 million carats per year — should be processed, but the country only managed to cut and polish a mere 0,1 percent.

Currently there is only one diamond cutting and polishing company licensed by the government after 28 others failed to renew their licenses due to exorbitant fees — which increased five-fold to $100 000 from $20 000 per annum in 2007.

By setting up its own cutting and polishing centres, Zimbabwe will join China, India and Israel who boast of the biggest establishments globally.

“Partnering with the Chinese who have been in the industry for a long time will also bring confidence in the distribution channel of our gems. If we team up with a big player then we are likely to get good prices for our mineral,” he said.

Zimbabwe — currently the world’s seventh largest diamonds producer and has potential to supply 25 percent of global demand — has not realised the true value of its gems as it exports unprocessed roughs.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and I believe we are in the right track. Once our partnership with one of the world’s most credible diamond players takes off then it will be easier for products to be accepted on the international market,” said Mutsvangwa.

MMCZ is a wholly government-owned company falling under the Mines and Mining Development ministry’s ambit.

The corporation is the exclusive agent for the selling and marketing of all minerals produced in Zimbabwe, except gold and silver. - John Kachembere

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