De Beers concerned for future of diamond hub Surat should supply chain remain halted
Surat could lose diamond cutting business to other processing hubs if it does not keep its supply chain going, according to a De Beers executive, but lockdown conditions in India make a return to full capacity a challenge.
“Surat is the biggest diamond polishing hub in the world,” De Beers’ chief executive Bruce Cleaver told the Economic Times. “Having said that, it won’t be the only place for polishing diamonds. There are other places where polishing is done on a smaller scale like southern Africa. There are other diamond polishing centres like China and Thailand.”
Cleaver is keen to keep the supply chain running but many diamond businesses in India have seen their workers return to their villages due to a lack of work and lockdown and many do not foresee a need for raw diamond imports for the foreseeable future.
“We recognise that Indian diamond industry is in a difficult condition due to the ongoing pandemic,” said Cleaver. “But global trade is important. Where we can and where there is demand, we don’t shut off economic activity. If there is demand, there should be no artificial barrier in way of demand. We should keep the supply chain going.”
“Customers of De Beers and midstream are flexible and smart,” said Cleaver. “They can look at other places for some polishing work though India will continue to be the most important cutting and polishing centre in the world.”
The diamond industry in Surat was experiencing a slowdown for months before the lockdown began on March 24. In 2019, increasing unemployment in the sector had even led some diamond workers to take their own lives, prompting an awareness programme by the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council. Although eight units have restarted limited operations in Surat’s special economic zone, it will be a long time before the hub returns to functioning at full capacity.
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