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Lower supplies affect annual gems sales in Myanmar

At Myanmar's only annual gems fair in Nay Pyi Taw, sales are expected to hit US$1.5 billion this year, down from US$2.4 billion last year, due to lower supplies.

NAY PYI TAW: At Myanmar's only annual gems fair in Nay Pyi Taw, sales are expected to hit US$1.5 billion this year, down from US$2.4 billion last year, due to lower supplies.

But the Myanmar government is planning to let an undisclosed number of jade mines in the northern state of Kachin restart production before the end of the year.

Mines in Kachin state have been closed for two years due to conflicts between the military government and ethnic armed groups.

Channel NewsAsia visited the Myanmar Gems Emporium to find out how the reopening of jade mines could affect the price and supply of the much coveted gem.

At the Myanmar Gems Emporium, jade takes centre stage.

Weighing over 230 kilogrammes, one jade has a starting bid price of 60 million euros (US$81.6 million).

It is the first time in the emporium's 51-year history that a jade is being offered at such a high minimum price.

Organisers admit jade is up to 20 per cent more expensive this year.

Mr Zaw Bo Khant, secretary of Myanmar Gems & Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association, said: "Mines closing, no more stock, no more production. So we have stock in our warehouse only. In 2012, there are two times emporiums. In 2013, one emporium and now, one emporium. Four times already. So we have less stock."

But with the re-opening of mines in the north, Mr Zaw Bo said businesses will be able to re-stock supplies and this may lead to lower prices in the long term.

For now, a limited supply of jade means organisers are holding just one emporium this year, compared to thrice within 12 months.

The high prices for jade are obvious, especially for one jade businessman from Hong Kong.

Mr Chung Kam Ching, a buyer from Hong Kong, said: "Only Myanmar has jade, so we all have to come here to buy it. Even though it's more expensive, we don't have a choice. We have to use more money to buy the same amount of goods compared to last year. We will have to try our best to bid and everyone will be trying to snatch (the same products)."

Competition among buyers will be higher this year as organisers expect more than 9,000 visitors, compared to 8,000 last year.

More than half of them are likely to be foreigners.

Some potential international buyers say the quality of the jade this year has in fact gone down, but many are still unwilling to walk away empty-handed. 

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