Work hard and you will find success

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Diamond sales to drop by half, says Botswana

30 march 2009

Botswana, the world’s biggest diamond producer, expects diamond sales mined in the country to plunge by half this year and prices to fall as much as 20% as the global economic slump slashes jewellery demand, Bloomberg reported.
Diamond sales are “going to be sluggish, but not as bad as the last quarter of 2008,” Nchidzi Mmolawa, director of mineral affairs at the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Affairs, told Bloomberg on Friday in an interview. Debswana, the joint venture between De Beers and the Botswana government, sold almost nothing in last year’s final two months, he said.
The worldwide slowdown has forced even the wealthiest shoppers to spend less, reported. Signet Jewelers Ltd., the world’s largest jewellery store owner, reported a loss this week as sales continued to wilt. Debswana, producer of a fifth of the world’s diamonds, said on February 23 all of its four mines would close until at least April 14 due to weaker demand.
“When this crisis started last year, we thought it was only the financial sector that would be impacted,” said Mmolawa, who spoke in the capital city of Gaborone. “I don’t think anyone expected it would hit the mining sector as much as it did.”
Still, sales at Debswana have improved by a “marginal” amount in the current quarter from the final months of 2008, according to Mmolawa. The company’s mines account for 70% of Botswana’s exports.
The director told Bloomberg he’s “confident” that Debswana will resume production next month at two mines - including Jwaneng, the world’s biggest - as the company runs down its stockpiles of diamonds.
The diamonds generate about half of Botswana’s government revenue, and the slump in exports will push the budget deficit to about 10% of gross domestic product in the year beginning April 1, Finance Minister Baledzi Gaolathe said in a separate interview in Gaborone.
Still, the government expects the economy to expand this year, or at worst post zero growth, as construction, tourism and other industries help to offset the downturn in mining, the minister told Bloomberg.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services cut its outlook on Botswana’s A foreign currency credit rating to “negative” from “stable” in February, forecasting a 1.3% economic contraction this year and a drop in government revenue.