Sale prices for Burma’s iconic jade stone have jumped as much as ten times in the past year, according to gem merchants whom last week attended the 48th Gems Emporium in Naypyidaw.
Despite the price hike, as many as 17,000 sets of jade were bought, one gem business owner at the emporium told DVB.
“Jade prices are going very high – about 10 times more than last year’s price,” he said. “A piece of jade that was worth 200,000 kyat ($US230) to 300,000 kyat ($US340) about three years ago is now worth about 1.5 million kyat ($US1,705) to two million kyat ($US2,272).”
He added that the dramatic increase was largely down to growing demand from Chinese buyers, who are also hungrily snapping up Burmese pearl which was second bestselling gem at the emporium. Another gem businessman said that Chinese traders made up three-quarters of the buyers in Naypyidaw last week.
With bans on imports of Burmese jade to the US, China has quickly become the world’s top market for the coveted stone, which is mined heavily in Burma’s northern Kachin and Sagaing states, often in operations backed by Chinese businessmen.
“China has high buyer demand for jade as the country’s economy is growing,” said another man. “And the Burmese government, which is sanctioned by western countries, was looking to sell the gems, so it’s a win-win situation.”
He added that the Burmese government “doesn’t care about the international sanctions and they wanted to show off how much money they can still make from selling the gems”.
Burmese government figures claim that profits made from selling jade has climbed from $US198 million in 2005 to $US1,700 million in 2010, despite seeing falls in profit from other precious stones.
The last gems emporium in Naypyidaw in November last year made record sales of $US1.4 billion, suggesting that the sanctioned industry is buoyant.
Burma is thought to produce around 90 percent of the world’s jade and gems, much of which goes to China and other regional nations, such as Singapore.
Most of the produce comes from Burma’s ethnic regions, particularly the Hpakant mines in Kachin state where the conditions for workers are notoriously poor. Around 30 government-licensed companies mine precious stones in Kachin state, where they have had to vie for territory with the opposition Kachin Independence Army.