Coronavirus drives De Beers to shift diamond sights from Botswana

GABORONE (Reuters) – Global diamond giant, De Beers has agreed with the government of Botswana to move diamond sales temporarily to places closer to international diamond centres to try to restart diamond trading hit by coronavirus travel restrictions.

FILE PHOTO: Diamonds are displayed during a visit to the De Beers Global Sightholder Sales (GSS) in Gaborone, Botswana November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Anglo American (AAL.L) unit De Beers sells 90 percent of its total supply from Gaborone, capital of Botswana, whose economy relies on diamonds.

But since the coronavirus pandemic, diamond buyers from traditional centres, such as Antwerp and Mumbai, have been unable to travel to Botswana, which they previously visited ten times a year to view and buy diamonds.

“If we can move our product closer to them it would give us the flexibility to restart sales as soon as the markets reopen,” De Beers Executive Vice President, Diamond Trading, Paul Rowley told a media briefing Thursday.

“The temporary measure will enable us and our government partners to generate some revenue in this difficult period.”

The two-month coronavirus lockdown in Belgium halted business in Antwerp, the world’s largest diamond trade centre. Antwerp reopened at the start of this month.

Movement restrictions and weaker demand forced De Beers to cancel its diamond sales, known as sights, in April and May after the February sale declined by 36 percent to $551 million.

De Beers, which gets 70 percent of its production from Botswana, is curbing output. It has revised downwards its 2020 production guidance by 7 million carats to between 25 and 27 million carats.

Botswana has a low number of coronavirus infections with 35 cases recorded and one death.

However, the economy has been severely impacted by the outbreak with the budget deficit expected to more than double as reduced diamond sales and exports impact revenues.

Reporting by Brian Benza; editing by Barbara Lewis

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