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October 26, 2017

‘Gems and jewellery business down 70 percent’


October 26, 2017

KARACHI: Gold and diamond jewellery is the first choice of every jewellery seeker, but business of those related to this industry including workers has declined over 70 percent, industry sources told The News.

Pakistan’s gems and jewellery sector is lagging far behind the neighbours. India is exporting gems and jewellery worth around $50 billion, including $14 billion diamonds, and Thailand’s exports are worth $7.18 billion. “Our exports may not be over Rs500 million,” said Muhammad Shafi Khan, a goldsmith in Saddar Gold Market.

“During the peak of work demand, a worker can earn up to Rs100,000. Now, one is earning no more than Rs30,000 a month,” Khan said. “We do not employ them. We give them wages according to the work.”

As far as quality of work is concerned, he said, “our worker is a genius at an individual level, but at collective level, our quality is not up to mark.”

There is a lot of potential to earn foreign exchange from this sector, he said, and added that India imports raw material and exports it after value-addition.

“There is potential to add ten times more value,” Shafi Khan said. USAID is working on skill development of Pakistani workers in this sector by developing institutes in Karachi, Lahore and other cities, where latest machinery is being used. Besides, the organisation is also providing monthly stipend to the trainee workers.

USAID started working in Pakistan on this sector around six years back, said one jeweller. “USAID training centres are quality institutes at Pakistan level, but not at the international level,” he said.

There is a need to introduce of latest technology in the country, the jeweller said, and added, “In our country, gold work was on top from 1960s to ‘80s.” World’s top technology holders GIA, HRD Belgium and IJI have presence all over the world, including branches in Mumbai, but they are not available in Pakistan.

One diamond shop owner said that business of gems and jewellery was down, because of unavailability of foreigners in the market and higher prices of gold, which kept the local buyers away from it.

Besides, “our potential customers are either buying from India or Dubai, as they get more variety,” he said.

However, he pointed out the disadvantage of buying products abroad. “They will buy expensive products and not enjoy the warranty and guarantee they otherwise can enjoy locally,” he said.

Due to an increase in the gold prices and unavailability of work, wages of workers have also decreased. One trained worker is earning around Rs25,000 to Rs30,000 a month in the sector.

Gold prices increased manifolds in around one decade. Prices have reached to Rs53,000 per tola (little higher than 10 grams) currently from Rs10,000 a tola in 2006. Gold touched as high as Rs63,000 a tola in 2013. In the international market, gold price had reached $1,938 an ounce in 2013 from $250 an ounce in 2001-02.

Ornaments of diamond, gold, silver, platinum, palladium (white gold), pearl, ruby emerald and sapphire are the common compositors of jewellery.

Jewellers are of the view that since Pakistan is rich in gems, there is great potential in the local market for becoming an elite exporter in this category. Top quality Ruby is available in Kashmir, which is famous in the world.

Ruby from Afghanistan also goes in the international market through Pakistan. Northern areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral are also rich in precious stones and gems.

A jewellery shop owner said gold was considered the best investment in the world. “One can carry it anywhere and sell it anywhere.

It can be kept in bits and pieces and can be kept for several thousands of years,” he said. He is hopeful of the ornaments’ business, as population is increasing. “If the economy improves, there would be better business for gems and jewellery here,” he said.

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