India's exports of gems, jewellery slump 38% in July - trade council

MUMBAI, Aug 13 (Reuters) - India’s gems and jewellery exports fell 38% in July from a year ago to $1.36 billion as shipments of cut and polished diamonds plunged because of the novel coronavirus, a trade organisation said on Thursday.

The industry was hit twice because of the coronavirus, with export orders evaporating and then a shortage of workers caused by a national lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.

India’s cut and polished diamond exports in July fell 39% from a year ago to $918.4 million, the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) said in a statement.

In the April to July period, cut and polished diamond exports plunged 46.5% from a year ago to $2.7 billion, it said.

Thousands of workers employed in polishing diamonds went back to their homes after the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the coronavirus in late March and many of them had yet to return, said Colin Shah, chairman of GJEPC.

“Today, there’s enough work, but not enough manpower,” Shah said.

Falling exports of cut and polished diamonds prompted polishing units to cut imports of rough diamond, which during April to July fell 82% from a year ago to $712.6 million, the trade body said.

Annual diamond shows used to help Indian exporters sell polished diamonds to foreign buyers, but the pandemic forced the GJEPC to postpone main shows to next year.

The GJEPC has now organised a virtual buyer and seller meet up on Aug. 27-28, with buyers from various countries expected to participate, it said.

Globally, demand for diamonds has plummeted during the pandemic, freezing sales and squeezing prices. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav Editing by Robert Birsel)