“Lanka yet to tap huge export potential of gem industry” | Daily News

“Lanka yet to tap huge export potential of gem industry”

Sri Lanka is yet to tap the huge export potential from the gem industry and with more focused efforts the industry can be turned in to a USD 1 billion foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka, said Gemologist (FGG–(Germany) FEEG-Europe) Umesh Wariyapperuma.(pictured)

“Though Sri Lanka’s gem and jewellery export income is less than USD 300 per year, in Hong Kong, where gems are not even available the annual income from gems and jewellery is USD 35 billion while in Thailand it is USD 15 billion dollars.”

Sri Lanka is world famous as Ratna-Deepa which means Gem Island reflecting its natural wealth. Marco Polo wrote that the island had the best sapphires, topazes, amethysts, and other gems in the world.

“Sri Lanka even supplied the gems to Queen Elizabeth’s crown and Princess Diana’s wedding ring and world famous museums also display Sri Lankan gems. However sadly we can’t even muster USD 300 million export revenue from this trade.”

Wariyapperuma said that as a first and quick step to double this target they proposed to the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (SLGJA) to launch a special online marketing system to sell gems and jewellery worth less than USD 3,000 to international buyers.

“To ensure the smooth flow of this scheme we wanted this scheme to be launched in collaboration with the Department of Posts and Sri Lanka Customs. With the launch of the online portal, more opportunities will be available for local gem exporters to get access to the international market and it will help to double Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings from the gem industry in the first year of its operation.”

“However sadly this is yet to take off due to the lethargic attitude of a few government officials.”

Wariyapperuma who is also the Managing Director, CEO at Ceylon Gem Traders (Pvt) Ltd set up since 1977 said that several global watch manufactures use gemstones for their products. “Sri Lanka should tap this market as well and try to export directly to watch making companies in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Britain, and France with local value addition.”

Currently Sri Lanka exports rough stones to Thailand and other countries who in turn adds value to them and re-exports to world famous jewellers and watch manufacturers.

“When we partnered with SLGJA for the Dubai Expo last year and launched the ‘#sapphire Sri Lanka’ campaign it was a major success. Similarly, the government with the assistance of the Sri Lankan embassies based overseas should conduct similar promotional events as the industry needs direct government assistance for sapphire marketing and promotion campaigns.”

He also said that the Sri Lanka Tourism too should play an active role towards this promotion and also promote ‘Sri Lanka Gems’ during their global destination marketing campaigns.

“If the government could launch some of these proposals Sri Lanka can easily reach the Gem and Jewellery export income target of USD1 billion in less than 18 months.”

He said that Sri Lankan gem traders too should be more responsible and reasonable when marketing gems for exorbitant prices. They should only sell genuine products without cheating the customer to earn a ‘quick buck’. “We have seen that some buyers who have paid high prices and purchased gems from Kandy traders and when they come to us they see the huge undue price difference. Hence Traders too should be honest and maintain ethics in marketing as due to the sale of fake gems and high prices our international reputation is tarnished.”

He also advised gem buyers to offer the maximum price to gems found by gem miners as they go through tremendous hardships to extract gems.

“My ambition is also to start a gem academy so that young people can get a practical education of proper international standards and also marketing processes on the gems and the mining industry.

Wariyapperuma said that through his ‘Janamehewara Foundation’ he is personally involved in a CSR program providing books and school equipment for the children of the gem industry miners.

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