December 7, 2010 / 9:54 AM / 8 years ago

Myanmar gem fair nets record $1.4 bln -govt official

YANGON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Gem traders in Myanmar, one of the world’s biggest producers of precious stones, took in a record 1.08 billion euros ($1.44 billion) at a 13-day emporium last month, a government official said on Tuesday.

The fair in the capital, Naypyitaw, attracted some 6,700 traders, 4,000 of them from overseas, with 9,157 lots of jade, 273 lots of gems and 237 lots of pearls sold in auctions, said the official, who requested anonymity.

“These are the highest proceeds from a single sale of jade, gems and pearls since 1964,” he told Reuters.

Gemstones are a lucrative source of income for Myanmar’s military government, despite Western sanctions imposed on the resource-rich country, some of which outlaw the procurement and sale of Burmese stones.

Myanmar produces more than 90 percent of the world’s rubies and fine-quality jade. Most of Myanmar’s jade and gemstone mines are run by the defence and mines ministries and businessmen with close connections to the regime.

The United States Congress passed a bill in October 2007 to expand sanctions prohibiting the domestic sale of rubies, jade and other gems routed through Myanmar’s neighbours. Experts say this has had only a limited impact on the junta because most buyers are from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

This is the first time in five years that the government has indicated how much money has been generated from the emporium, which is usually held in the biggest city, Yangon.

Officials said trade fairs held in March and October generated 400 million and 700 million euros respectively.

Myanmar recently launched a drive to attract foreign investment, particularly from Asian countries, to what it says is a market with vast potential held back by Western sanctions. [ID:nSGE6AG07J].

Many analysts believe the regime is trying to promote its natural resources, particularly energy, to attract foreign interest and force a review of trade embargoes that prevent the powerful military from procuring better-quality arms. ($1=.7518 Euro) (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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