GAM bemoans lack of govt. support in gemstone marketing
By Deborah Manda
The Gemstone Association of Malawi (GAM) has bemoaned lack of government efforts in coming up with strategies which would help small scale miners identify profitable markets for their products.
GAM President John Chikokoto told Mining & Trade Review in an interview that unlike in other countries, Malawi does not have established markets and recommended prices for gemstones hence miners just sell their products at their own desired prices.
One of the challenges facing us, ASMs, is that we do not have established markets where we can showcase and sell our gemstones so if a buyer comes, we just sell without considering whether we are making a profit or loss,
Chikokoto said GAM has, therefore, proposed to the Department of Mines in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining to facilitate the establishment of market centers for gemstones in all the three regions of the country.
It is sad that up to now the government is still mum on the proposal and miners continue to be robbed by middlemen who buy the stones at unrealistically low prices to sell at whooping profits,
He explained that it was high time Malawi emulated the cases of countries like Zambia and Tanzania which have well organized ASM cooperatives who are well trained in processing of stones to sell at established market centers.
Zambian and Tanzania are benefitting a lot from gemstone mining because they are well advanced in the trade but here we have nothing to show and we just sell rough stones to middlemen from these countries who add value to the stones to sell for a huge profit,
Chikokoto, therefore, said it is high time the Malawi government trained the ASMs in modern value addition technologies so that more rough stones are cut and fashioned within the country.
The government has to take prompt action on this issue because it is losing lots of revenue as these middlemen do not pay any taxes since they just smuggle the stones to the neighbouring countries,
Meanwhile, the Association is currently liaising with Auction Holdings Limited Commodity exchange (AHLCX) to introduce gem fairs.
Chikokoto said AHLCX has welcomed the idea but are only looking for experts who will be engaged to organize the fairs.
Yamikani Jimsole, a small scales miner concurred with Chikokoto that with proper marketing strategies, the gemstone industry can bring more revenue to the country since it has quality gemstones such as rubies, garnets and acquamarine that can compete with the best in the industry.
There is a lot of secrecy in the Malawi market and traders are never on the same page about the value of gemstones. Gem dealers and miners set their own prices with no set valuation standards,
But Director of Geological Survey, Jalf Salima, said under the Geological Mapping and Mineral Assessment Project which is funded by the Government of France, the Malawi government has planned to train government geologists on quality assessment of stones to certify them for the international market.
Certainly, this will help a lot in the marketing of local gemstones,
Salima told delegates at the conference in Zomba which was organised by GEMMAP and the World Bank and European Union funded Mining Governance and Growth Support Project.
Through smuggling, Malawi gemstones find their way to international markets with other countries getting recognition and credit as producers.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 58 (February 2018).