Gems Traders in Mandalay to Protest Decline in Jade Market

Gems traders in Mandalay plan to hold a protest tomorrow, calling on the government to take action to bolster the region’s slumping jade market.

According to U Than Win, one of the protest’s leaders, the market for jade in Mandalay has been in decline for almost three years and now many traders are finding it difficult to eke out enough of a living to put food on the table each day.

“Most gems traders are facing difficulties and are getting into huge debt. The reason that the jade market is being destroyed [in Mandalay] is that companies are mining excessively for jade using machine power and then exporting it to China. As they find huge valuable stones, the lower-quality gems here are being devalued,” said U Than Win.

U Soe Lwin of Myanmar Soe Moe Gems Company said sales are falling in the current gems market and that sellers are at the mercy of buyers in determining prices.

“Now we don’t even get K50 million [US$39,000] for a gem that would have been worth K100 million in the past. Gems are being mined excessively in Hpakant and then exported illegally through Waingmaw [township] and Lwegwe [Road, in Kachin State] … This situation means that there is no reason for large-scale buyers to come to Mandalay to buy gems,” he said.

The protest organisers have so far collected 20,000 signatures in support of Mandalay’s gems traders. They say they have raised their concerns with the government in the past but no action has been taken.

At tomorrow’s protest, the gems traders will call on the government to implement a number of protectionist measures to support the sliding market in Mandalay, which they hope will be included in changes to the Gemstones Law currently up for review. These measures include a temporary suspension of jade exploration, the prevention of excessive jade mining and a ban on the export of raw jade.

The protesters will also demand that the government replace a number of senior figures within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation and the state-owned Myanmar Gems Enterprise.

According to protest organisers, there is no need for concern over their proposed suspension of jade exploration. Based on the decline in interest at the last gems emporium held in Myanmar, U Than Win said, there are enough gems in circulation to last three or four years without any further exploration.

The government has taken one step to curb the lucrative jade mining business in the country’s north: In July, it announced that permits would not be renewed once they expired and no new permits would be issued until by-laws to the Gemstones Law were adopted.

Tomorrow’s protest will be held behind the Maha Aung Myay Gems Trading Centre from 8am to 11am.


Source: Myanmar Times

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