(Economic Times of India)-Completely dependent on imports for rough diamonds, lifeline of the 14-billion-dollar exports of the polished precious stone, India is taking steps to obtain the raw material directly from Africa instead of sourcing it from European middlemen.
Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh is taking a delegation of country's major buyers of rough diamonds to Namibia and Angola beginning March 26.
Officers from the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, State Trading Corporation and MMTC Ltd are accompanying the minister, who feels India must involve Africa in the value chain of the diamond business.
In future, India will find it difficult to source rough diamonds unless it demonstrates to African nations that it will collaborate actively in helping them move up the value chain and assist in value addition in these producing countries. The Africanisation of diamonds processing industry is not a threat to India but a great opportunity which "we must proactively embrace", Ramesh said.
He said the visit to Angola and Nambia will be followed by another one in the next couple of months to South Africa and Botswana, the other important diamond producing countries in Africa.
India's estimated imports of rough diamonds in 2007-08 are 10 billion dollars, while estimates of exports of cut and polished diamonds in 2007-08 are about 14 billion dollars.
The country is the world's largest importer of rough and exporter of cut and polished diamonds with over 90 per cent market share.
Rough diamonds are presently procured through a variety of sources with the bulk of it coming into India through Antwerp in Belgium. It is in India's long-term interest to establish direct relationships with supplier countries, cutting out all the middlemen, Ramesh said.
The Commerce Ministry has also started dialogue with the major diamond producing countries. Alrossa, the Russian diamond producing company has recently sold roughs directly to Indian buyers, though in small quantities.
Angola produces about 10 per cent of the world's rough diamonds and is also a country with which India has been trying to establish a relationship in the oil sector. Namibia accounts for about six per cent of world rough diamonds production.
Though India has embarked on exploration of diamonds, it will take at least a decade before commercial deposits in states like Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are proven and established. The diamond cutting and polishing industry will continue to be entirely dependent on imports of rough diamonds for a long time to come, Ramesh said.
Officials of the ONGC Videsh are also accompanying the minister and will assist him in talks on cooperation with Angola in oil exploration (Economic Times of India)