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With investment in technology, gems, jewellery exports hit $1b mark

May 14, 2013


After years of planning, Pakistan’s gems and jewellery exports for the first time in history have crossed the psychological mark of $1 billion, which will earn the industry some respect in policymaking circles that appear to have neglected it for decades.

“The rise in gems and jewellery exports comes in the wake of investment by local enterprises in technology and innovation. Pakistanis are now investing in latest machinery that has never been the case before,” said Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Development Company (PGJDC) Chief Executive Bakhtiar Khan in an interview to The Express Tribune.

According to latest government figures, gems and jewellery exports hit $1.11 billion in the first nine months of the current fiscal year 2012-13 compared to $580 million in the same period of previous year, showing an impressive growth of 91%.

What is startling is that exports for just nine months are 20% higher than exports worth $926 million for the whole of last year.

Explaining the reasons for the growth, Khan said Pakistan is moving from traditional to contemporary ways of jewellery manufacturing. “Our enterprises are now investing in value addition in both stones and jewellery,” he said.

Khan, who has been heading PGJDC for over a year, believes that Pakistan needs to work hard to not only keep exports at the current level, but also increase them.

When viewed separately, exports of gems have remained insignificant against big jewellery shipments. Despite that, gems exports rose 19% from July to March 2012-13 to reach $3.1 million compared to $2.64 million in the same period last year.

PGJDC, a public sector organisation that works under the Ministry of Production, has put in two years of strenuous efforts to gain a global foothold. It organised an international fair in Karachi last year in which over 40 international delegations participated.

“The fair that we organised last year received extraordinary response from foreign buyers, who were amazed to see Pakistani products,” Khan said.

With around $40 billion of annual jewellery exports, India is one of the leading jewellery makers of the world. Last year’s fair also developed linkages between Indian jewellery manufacturers and their Pakistani counterparts. They offered training to Pakistani industry, but this important opportunity could not be grabbed because of visa issues between the two arch-rivals.

“As India is a leading player in the global jewellery industry, we want to develop training links with them, but visa issues are a major obstacle.”

Industry people are of the view that exports from Pakistan can be enhanced further if the duty on import of jewellery machinery is reduced.

Though the private sector is buying state-of-the-art machinery, many are hesitant to invest as the machinery proves costly, he said, suggesting low prices of machinery will increase investment and encourage more players to enter the arena that is full of opportunities.

PGJDC, with 144 employees, has its head office in Karachi and has offices in other major cities as well that help in organising training sessions for industry people.

With abundant presence of precious and semi-precious stones, Pakistan should have been a significant player in studded gold jewellery market. However, lack of government backing, training facilities, traditional mining methods and other factors have come in its way.

North America, Europe and the Middle East are the world’s leading jewellery markets, where all exporters including Pakistan want to increase their share. Pakistan and India have a slight edge over other exporting countries because of the strong diaspora who have significant presence in all these major markets.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2013.

From → By Farhan Zaheer

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