Mandalay jade traders say worst year ‘ever’ for sales

Jade traders in Mandalay say this could be the worst year ever for business. The main cause they cite is the absence of Chinese buyers, possibly nervous about the outcome of next month’s election.

In interviews on October 25 at the Maha Aung Myay Gem Trading Centre, one trader after another bemoaned their current lot.

Jade trader U Myo Myint said profits were down because most transactions now involved Myanmar-to-Myanmar dealings, there being very few Chinese traders around.

“There is trading, but less profit. With Chinese buyers away, traders are losing hundreds of thousands of kyat,” he said.

Jewellery trader Ko Wai Phyo said profits could be had if the jade was worked into smaller pieces, selling for tens of thousands of US dollars, rather than putting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jade crystals into larger pieces of jewellery.

“I can’t sell one jade crystalware piece that I bought for K600,000 because the profit would amount to only about K30,000 or K40,000. But there is profit in pieces that only sell for K30,000,” he said.

Mostly, traders are waiting for the return of the good times.

“I think profitable trading conditions will come back, and that this will be the worst year,” said one.

A jade crystal bought for K2 million has to be sold for K1.8 million, a substantial loss, said jade crystal trader U Soe Thu, who has worked in the trade for six years.

“This is the worst year of trading I have ever experienced. Even when there are transactions, there’s no profit,” he said, adding, “I think the Chinese traders are waiting to see what the new government will do. Trade in Ruili is also down. They come, but they don’t buy, then they leave.”

Ruili is in China’s Yunnan province, across the border from Muse in Shan State.

Mike Davis of non-government organisation Global Witness – which published a report last week on the jade sector – said it’s unclear whether the slowdown in Mandalay sales will be temporary.

Traders claim that while prices for the best-quality jade have remained high, prices for lower-grade material have been more volatile, he said.

Industry players say that Mandalay and Ruili are mostly – though not exclusively – dealing in the lower grades and so may have been affected by this, said Mr Davis.

Similarly, emporium sales this year in Nay Pyi Taw took a hit.

“It looks like the main reason was a new rule on deposits which is designed to ensure that winning bidders actually complete the sales, rather than winning a bid then gauging the sell-on price in China and deciding whether to pay up or not,” he said.

However, this could also have reflected the wider market conditions for low-to-medium-grade stones – “the bread and butter of emporium events”.

Source: Myanmar Times

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