Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Zimbabwe to Send Diamonds to Antwerp

Zim trade team for Antwerp

October 29, 2013
Lovemore Chikova News Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

ZIMBABWE is expected to send its first batch of diamonds for trade to Antwerp, Belgium before the end of the year, with the country now assembling a high-powered delegation to visit the diamond trading hub over the coming days to tie the loose ends on the resumption of trade.

Officials in the diamond industry said the visit by the top leadership of the Antwerp World Diamond Council last week was a “giant step” towards the resumption of trade that had been stalled by the illegal sanctions regime imposed on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and its subsidiaries by the EU at the instigation of Britain.

The sanctions were lifted after Belgium joined Zimbabwe in opposing them, leaving the EU with no choice, but to rescind its unreasonable decision and in so-doing broke London’s influence on the 27-member bloc.

Antwerp World Diamond Council is the world’s leading diamond trading hub based in Belgium and brings together nearly 2 000 buyers.

The AWDC’s high-powered delegation met Government officials and stakeholders in the diamond mining sector where it made it clear that all was set for Zimbabwe to trade in its gems on the world market.

The marketing of the diamonds would be handled by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, which also deals with the marketing of many other minerals.

MMCZ chairperson Mrs Juliet Machoba said yesterday that the corporation had agreed with AWDC officials on the roadmap for the resumption of trade.

“What was important about the visit was the interest demonstrated by the Antwerp officials in our diamonds and in the resumption of trade.

“We are now studying the way they do business and the dynamics involved. We will be undertaking a study trip to Antwerp to understand the issues related to the opening up of the selling of our diamonds.”

Mrs Machoba said they were hopeful to have sorted out everything related to the trade in preparation for the Antwerp auction of diamonds that was expected to take place next month.

“Our minister (of Mines and Mining Development Cde Walter Chidhakwa) is keen that logistics are in place and we will assess if we are ready for the auction,” she said.

ZMDC general manager Mr Jerry Ndlovu said they were excited at the progress with regards to selling the gems on the international scene.

ZMDC is a State-enterprise in partnerships with five diamond mining companies in Marange, whose operations have all been certified by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a development that flies in the face of claims by some anti-Zimbabwe groups that the gems fell in the category of conflict diamonds.

“The visit we will make to Antwerp is meant to finalise the modalities of selling our diamonds and hopes are high that they will be sold before the end of the year,” he said.

“Our diamonds will be able to reach the world market and we are looking forward very much to the good move of selling them in Europe.”

The meetings held by the local officials with those from AWDC focused on coming up with practical arrangements for the resumption of trade, mapping export procedures and regulations, arranging for the transportation of the diamonds between Zimbabwe and Antwerp and ways of stimulating trade flows in both directions.

The delegation comprised AWDC president Mr Stephane Fischler, chief executive officer Mr Ari Epstein, head of business development Mr Dries Holvoet, head of business intelligence Mr Mark Van Bockstael, manager communications Mr Karen Rentmeesters and interim head of public affairs Mr Geert Waelkens.

Other members of the delegation were drawn from the Antwerp diamond trading community, including some who already have business ties with Marange.

They held meetings with Minister Chidhakwa, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha and officials from MMCZ and ZMDC.

The visit was the first test case in the wake of the lifting of EU sanctions against ZMDC on September 23 this year. The AWDC pushed for the removal of the sanctions as it angled to tap into the country’s vast diamond reserves that are tipped to command 25 percent of the international market.

ZMDC’s joint-venture mines in the Marange diamond fields produced a combined eight million carats of the gems last year and generated US$684,5 million in exports.

Of the US$684,5 million, Mbada Diamonds contributed US$308,3 million, followed by Anjin with US$209,9 million. Diamond Mining Corporation contributed US$100,8 million and Marange Resources US$236 317.

The scrapping of the sanctions followed Belgium’s call for their removal in the wake of the widely-endorsed harmonised elections held on July 31.

President Mugabe and Zanu-PF romped to a crushing victory over MDC-T in the elections that were endorsed by the majority of local observers and all foreign observers.

While the United States, Britain and its dominions, Australia and Canada, have refused to endorse the elections, the EU as a bloc went ahead to scrap the embargo on ZMDC.

The value of Zimbabwe’s diamonds is expected to rise significantly after being exposed to the high number of buyers at Antwerp.

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