Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Global Financial Crisis Hits Burmese Jade Trade

The Irrawaddy News
November 18, 2008

The trade in jade at the China-Burma border has markedly decreased due to the global financial crisis with many Chinese buyers staying away from the markets, according to Burmese jade traders at the border.

According to the traders, regular jade buyers from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Beijing were coming less often to the China-Burma border since the global financial crisis took hold last month.

Unidentified Chinese trader walks past the piles of jade stones on display at the 45th Annual Gems Emporium held on March at Myanmar Convention Center in Rangoon. (Photo: AP)
A jade trader in Ruili said that a stone which would have cost 15,000 yuan (US $2,200) last month, is currently selling at just 5,000 yuan ($730).

“There is almost no one buying jade,” said the trader. “Prices are now very low. Even if I can sell all my existing jade, I will still make a loss.”

The trader said many Burmese jade traders had lost their investment and had returned to their homes in Burma. Others had stayed at the border, but were working for 40 to 50 yuan ($5.80—$7.30) a day doing casual labor to get by in the meantime.

A woman jade trader from Hpacan Township, Kachin State—Burma’s largest jade mining area—said she had recently come to the Chinese border with jade stones worth a total of 1 million kyat ($790). However, to date she had only taken in some 400,000 kyat ($314) in sales, all to Chinese buyers.

She said that some joint-venture jade companies in Hpacan had recently suspended jade mining operations due to the current financial crisis. She added that the companies only compensated the miners with enough food to live on, but could not—or would not—pay them a per diem while work was suspended.

Many workers didn’t know what to do, she said. Some were depressed and had taken to drugs.

Jade miners in Burma earn an average of just 2,000 kyat ($1.60) per day.

Awng Wa, a member of the board of advisers for the All Kachin Students and Youth Union (AKSYU), who regularly monitors the jade trade at the border, estimated that jade sales had dropped by 75 percent.

According to a report titled “Blood Jade: Burmese Gemstones & the Beijing Games” by the AKSYU and the activist group 8-8-08 for Burma, some 90 of Burmese jadeite is sold to China. That jade is almost exclusively the product of the Burmese military regime, said the report.

Sales of jade are Burma’s third highest source of foreign income, earning an estimated $300 million in revenue for the military junta.

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