Gems and jewellery exports are projected to decline by 25-30 per cent in the current fiscal as there was a "complete washout" of the first quarter due to lockdown to curb spreading of the COVID-19, the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) said on Thursday.
"There was a complete shutdown during the first quarter of this financial year (April-June) due to complete lockdown in India as well as the importing countries in order to curb the spread of the pandemic.
"Even as things are improving the washout of the first quarter will have a cascading effect on the entire financial year," GJEPC Chairman Colin Shah said.
Speaking to reporters after the inauguration of the first virtual buyer-seller meet on loose diamonds, he also said the next two quarters will continue to be challenging due to manufacturing restrictions.
"Overall, we are expecting 25-30 per cent decline in gems and jewellery exports in 2020-21," he said.
This year, there is going to be demand but manufacturing will be the challenge because a lot of workers have still not returned, he said, adding "we hope we can ramp up manufacturing to go up with the demand".
Jewellery manufacturers were functioning with 25 per cent manpower keeping in line with state government guidelines amid the pandemic.
From Thursday onwards, this limit has been increased to 50 per cent along with the rest of the safety guidelines that the manufacturers have to maintain, Shah said.
When asked about the challenges expected during the next two quarters, he said that usually the season is from October to March, when most retail buying takes place due to festive seasons.
"The demand is strong and we expect things to be close to normal by then. We expect 10 per cent decline during the second and third quarters," he added.
Commerce and Industry Ministry Joint Secretary Suresh Kumar said this first ever virtual buyer and seller meet will be a new beginning for the council and will set an example.
"We are not sure how fast the entire scenario globally is going to change and how early we can travel and how the buyer seller meets physically. So, keeping that in mind, the industry should not waste its time, waiting for the pandemic to go away. Instead of that, it is prudent for the council to shift into a virtual platform," he said.
He also noted that it is time to look at the virtual events as a new normal as the immediate future looks gloomy in terms of organising actual trade events in India or in other countries, considering the intensity of the pandemic.
"Hence, it is prudent for the council to arrange virtual events. Happy to know that the markets like the US, UAE, China among others are opening up and business contingencies are looking brighter," he said.
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