Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Diamond exports swing up 48 percent

The value of the country's rough and polished diamond exports reached P2.43 billion in May, up 48 percent from April and continuing the seesaw trend in sales of the precious stones this year.

Prior to the latest upswing, diamond exports had slumped by nearly 45 percent in April, having risen by 34 percent in March, with the fluctuations largely driven by mixed demand in diamond markets. According to preliminary data released by the Bank of Botswana (BoB) on Monday, May diamond exports were nearly 20 percent down from May 2011, a time when a global diamond shortfall and general recovery from the 2009 recession, underpinned demand for the precious stones. In United States dollar terms, May exports were pegged at US$324 million, being nearly 45 percent up from their April levels.
Analysis of the BoB's figures indicates that the Pula lost 1.73 percent in value against the US dollar in April, encouraging diamond trade due to more competitive pricing. The BoB added that first quarter diamond exports had been revised upwards by P1.16 billion to P7.16 billion, due to the correction of a statistical error.
"This (was) on account of exports of polished diamonds that were inadvertently excluded from the previous estimates," the BoB said. "The estimates for diamond exports combine sales data for rough diamonds provided by the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB) with exports of polished diamonds taken from the trade statistics produced by Statistics Botswana.
"The latter are available only after a lag of one to two months, resulting in sometimes significant upward revisions to the initial estimates, which only include rough diamonds."
The BoB added that adjustments in the methodology for recording diamond exports could be expected in order to account for ongoing developments in the sector. The healthier May and first quarter diamond figures bode well for domestic growth, as the sector, which contributes more than a third of national output, has recently led an economy-wide downtrend.
Statistics Botswana recently released first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures indicating that mining fell by 7.8 percent in the first three months of 2012, improving from a drop of 16.1 in the last quarter of 2011. "Real GDP increased by 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 9.0 percent in the same quarter of 2011," Statistics Botswana said.
"The deceleration was mainly due to the mining sector, which recorded a decrease of 7.8 percent. With the exception of mining, most industries recorded an increase over the period, notably construction and water and electricity recorded the highest increase of 19.7 percent and 11.2 percent respectively," Statistics Botswana said in a statement.
Diamond demand and prices have vacillated since the fourth quarter of 2011, due to uncertainty in key markets such as the United States, the European Union and Japan.
While India and China are fast emerging as major diamond markets, a currency value fall in the former and economic growth concerns in the latter, are dulling short-term prospects for diamonds. However, most industry players remain positive on the precious stones' performance this year, pointing to the continuing supply/demand shortfall in the market, particularly for specific colours and sizes.

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