Diamond giant De Beers on Thursday announced a 36-percent decline in sales since the beginning of the year as the ongoing global health crisis triggered by the coronavirus outbreak takes a toll on sales to the lucrative Chinese market.De Beers chief executive Bruce Cleaver said it registered rough diamond sales of US$351 million during its second auction held in February, down from US$551 million during the first auction the previous month.
The February sales were about 29 percent lower than the US$496 million recorded during the same period in 2019.
Cleaver attributed the decline to the impact of the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, which had by Thursday infected more than 95,000 worldwide and claimed nearly 3,300 lives.
“Following an improvement in demand for rough diamonds during the first sales cycle of 2020, we recognised the impact of COVID-19 Coronavirus on customers focused on supplying the Chinese market and put in place additional targeted flexibility to enable customers to defer allocations of the relevant rough diamonds,” De Beers’ group’s CEO, Bruce Cleaver said on Thursday.
De Beers sells diamonds to a hand-picked group of about 80 buyers 10 times a year in the Botswana capital Gaborone.
Data from De Beers shows that China accounts for about 14 percent of worldwide consumption of polished gems, making it the largest market outside the United States.
The coronavirus outbreak started in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has spread to scores of other countries.
The Italian government announced on Wednesday that it was closing all schools and universities in the country from 5-15 March to contain the spread of the disease. The European country has recorded about 3,100 cases and more than 100 deaths linked to the coronavirus.