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Why Pakistan’s gems exports are not increasing?

May 14, 2013

FARHAN ZAHEER

KARACHI

Pakistan is one of those few countries in the world that has abundant resources of precious and semi-precious stones yet its gems’ exports are negligible. Now that gems and jewellery exports have crossed $1 billion mark, a big share of it constitutes of studded jewellery, one can expect a fresh surge in gems sector that has failed to get any significant support from successive governments.

Over the last few years, gems and jewellery sector has registered an impressive growth in exports but unlike jewellery exports, gem exports are still too low especially if it is seen in the context of its inherent potential.

Gems and jewellery sector has hit a significant $1.1 billion mark in first 9 months of current fiscal year, up 91 percent from $580 million in the same period last year. However, gems exports alone are just $3.1 million despite the fact that it has shown an impressive 19 percent growth in last 9 months if compared to the same period last year.

“Gems exports are indeed too low. But one of its biggest reasons is that those gems that are used in exportable studded jewellery in Pakistan are not counted in the export of gems,” Chief Executive Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Development Company (PGJDC) Bakhtiar Khan said in a recent interview with The Express Tribune.

Pakistan has some of the best precious and semi-precious stones that are the backbone of our studded jewellery – one of the various kinds of jewellery where Pakistan performs well in international market, Khan explained.

Despite all these encouraging factors, both public and private sectors are convinced that the overall situation is not at all satisfactory in gems and jewellery sector.

“Gems and jewellery is relatively a smaller sector that has no representation in policy making circles because of which no one cares about this sector,” a Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) official told The Express Tribune who did not want to be named.

Among gems and jewellery, gems is primarily an unorganised sector that use traditional methods of mining and finishing the stones. Apart from these problems, it is also true that this sector has no powerful lobby like textiles or other sectors to gain some concessions from government, he added.

TDAP has a significant role in promoting exports of country but private sector is not pleased with its role in gems and jewellery sector.

Iftikhar Hussain, General Manager of Khushal International Pvt Ltd, a growing company based in Gilgit-Baltistan, told The Express Tribune that gems sector in Gilgit-Baltistan has all the potential to become the biggest industry of the rugged mountainous region.

“I have provided stone cutting and polishing machines to many women who work for me from their homes in Gilgit-Baltistan. But I do not have more money to buy more machines,” said Husain.

It can be developed into a full-fledge cottage industry but lack of financing opportunity is the biggest hurdle in the growth of gems industry of Gilgit-Baltistan. Because of any significant development in gems sector, local people seem dejected with the concerned government authorities, he added.

Industry officials and experts say Gilgit-Baltistan – the northern most region of Pakistan – has abundant resources of stones that are in high demand in the international market. Like Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan has not been to create an enabling environment for this industry in Balochistan – the resource rich province that has been marred with insurgency, ethnic conflicts and sectarian violence for decades.

Pakistan Mohammad Ibrahim Langou, Proprietor Baluchistan Gems and Jewellery and Handicraft, said that gems miners and traders in Baluchistan know huge reserves of undiscovered blue granite and other stones that are in high demand in international markets but they do not have resources of mining.

Most of the traders sell the precious and semi-precious stones in Peshawar at a negligible price to intermediaries who sell them in international markets and earn hefty profits, said Langou, who frequently travels between Quetta and Peshawar – arguably the biggest market of gems in the country.

Small traders, dealers and artisans of gems are unanimous that unless government provide financing opportunities to the budding entrepreneurs, the industry exports would not show exponential growth.

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From → By Farhan Zaheer

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