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THE gold market in Myanmar has experienced a downturn this year that, experts say, is a market contrast to previous years when Yangon’s gold shops have seen fluctuating prices amidst frantic buying and selling.

According to tradition, Myanmar people usually buy gold if they have extra money, hence the saying, ‘Gold means food when you haven’t money and ornaments when you have plenty’.

Business people have always bought gold as a commodity for trade and investment.

In the past year though, gold purchases have fallen, gold shop owners on Mahabandoola Road in Latha and Lanmadaw townships told Myanmar Times. They say sales – and gold prices – have decreased since the beginning of February, while prices have varied less since the beginning of the year.

At the end of April, a tical (a traditional unit of weight in Southeast Asia that equals 16.4 grams or 0.567 ounces) of gold was selling for about K180,000 a decrease of K30,000 a tical on prices in January 2003.

“Gold sales have dropped by about 30 per cent this year compared to January 2003,” said Daw San San Oo, the owner of Shwe Lee gold shop on Mahabandoola Road.

“Sales have been worse since Thingyan. The fact that the price of gold is unlikely to increase this year means sales are likely to drop further,” she added.

Sources in the gold industry say sales of light gold jewellery have not been as badly affected as sales of heavier jewellery.

“Sales have decreased on heavy gold chains and bracelet weighting 20 ticals ( 11.34 ounces), 10 ticals (5.67 ounces) or five ticals (2.835 ounces); people used to buy these items to save. Small chains that weigh one or two ticals are now selling better (than heavier jewellery),” said Ma Mya Kay, the owner of Shwe Sin gold shop on Mahabandoola Road.

Dr Thet Thet Khine, the owner of Shwe Nan Daw gold shop, agreed that this year has seen a marked fall in gold sales which are subject to seasonal variations.

“Gold sales usually drop after Thingyan and remain low until the end of the rainy season. October to December is the best time for gold sales,” she said, adding that after Thingyan owners of gold will often sell to raise money.

On the world market, the price of gold has remained relatively stable this year, experts say, similar to Myanmar.