India seeks increased diamond trade

BULAWAYO - India said it is seeking to develop Zimbabwe’s diamond sector through increased trade.

One of the emerging Asian giant’s leading industry bodies, I am SME of India, yesterday said it was looking for ways to partner with local diamond producers.

“It’s deplorable that Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular has not benefited from its natural resources."

“As such, we would love to have synergies with Zimbabwe and trade directly with the country without the use of middlemen,” I am SME of India chairperson Rajiv Chawla said.

I am SME of India is an integrated business association with various firms involved in manufacturing, telecommunications, banking, and insurance among others.

India has a thriving diamond cutting and polishing industry — the largest in the world — which rakes in millions of dollars annually.

However, the Asian nation’s plan may face many hurdles considering the fact that Zimbabwe’s diamond industry has taken a dive since last year after the government forcibly took over the diamond fields from private firms and formed the State-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.

Since it began operations last year, the country’s diamond production has been struggling to meet targets.

The State-owned diamond miner produced 972 765 carats of diamonds in the first half of 2016 against a six million carat target. Zimbabwe was at some point believed to hold more than a quarter of the world’s diamonds.

Meanwhile, Chawla said Zimbabwe’s imports ban could help grow the country’s economy if its manufacturing firms partner with India.

“Statutory Instrument 64 (of 2016) can create an opportunity for collaboration with India for import substitutions,” he said.

According to data from Mines minister Walter Chidakwa, ZCDC is only producing 95 000 to 100 000 carats a month against a target of approximately of between 300 000 to 350 000 carats.

All else being equal, the country should be getting about $30 million per month from diamonds but this is not the case.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has attributed the low output levels at ZCDC to lack of adequate capital on the part of operating companies under the State-owned company as well as reluctance by previous companies to merge into the newly-formed company.

Diamond revenue has remained a national  headache with very little being realised from the auction of Zimbabwe’s gems. President Robert Mugabe last year claimed the country had lost an estimated $15 billion to leakages in the sector.

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