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A SUBSTANTIAL increase in gem production during the past decade has contributed to a boost in the export of precious stones from Myanmar, industry sources said.

An official source said Myanmar exports about US$60 million worth of precious stones annually, and the business continues to show upward trends.

Twice a year the government organises gem emporiums, where government and privately owned gems are put on display for hundreds of overseas buyers to purchase.

Other gems are exported through individual sales to overseas buyers by private traders with the permission of the Myanma Gems Enterprise under the Ministry of Mines.

The official, who wished to remain unnamed, said about 1000 private gem trading companies are in operation in the country.

Private exporters are required to pay 10 per cent government fee, of which 7 per cent goes to the tax department and rest goes to the Myanma Gems Enterprise.

The official said that holding the gem emporiums was an effective way to increase the publicity and sales of Myanmar gems.

The government has held the emporiums in March every year since 1964, and in 1992 introduced a second annual event in October.

Sales have been on an upward trend ever since. The October 2002 event achieved record sales of more than US$30 million.

About US$400 million worth, of gems have been sold at the emporiums from 1964 to 2003, according to figures released by the Myanma Gems Enterprise.

The production and export of gems also got a boost after the government enacted the Gemstone Law in 1995, provisions of which allow private enterprises to mine, transport, process and sell precious stones.

The law also paved a way for a substantial increase in the production of some gems in Myanmar.

According to the latest figures released by the enterprise, Myanmar produced more than 10,000 tons of iade during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003, a nearly 10-fold increase from fiscal 1995-1996.

Provision under the Gemstone Law have also helped curb illegal exports of gems and have encouraged traders to sell at the government-sponsored emporiums, said U Maung Sein, the managing director of the Noble Land Company gems trading and production group.

He said the price of illegally exported gems was much lower than that of legitimate exports. Gems sold at the emporiums and at the government’s gem trading centre in Yangon fetch higher prices.

However, U Maung Sein said that Myanmar needs to work on exporting finished gems rather than unpolished products.

“We geed better gem-polishing technology,” he said.

He also recommended the formation of an official council or association of gem merchants, which would help expand the market and standardise the price of Myanmar gems.

He said that 90 per cent of the rubies produced in Myanmar are bought by Thailand and rest by Europe and North America, while the majority of jade is sold to China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.