De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier said the diamond miner has been consulting with Sightholders’ and looking “at a variety of new ways to strengthen our relationship with Sightholders in the next contract.“
“We have listened to Sightholders’ views on how best to do this and will focus on simplifying the process where possible, giving Sightholders greater flexibility and making Sightholder status even more meaningful,” he said in a speech marking the first sight of 2014.
The 40-year relationship between De Beers and Botswana and the relocation of sightholder sales activity to Gaborone last year have stimulated economic activity in the Southern African country and made it “one of the world’s leading rough diamond trading destinations,” Mellier said in a speech to representatives of the Botswana government, sightholders and local businesses at a reception in Gaborone.
Speaking of De Beers’ relationships with Botswana, sightholders and consumers, he called on the diamond industry to “build on the firm foundations we have established, continue to invest in the outstanding relationships that have brought us so far and ensure we keep on working together for our mutual benefit”.
“Botswana has grown from being a primary producer with a maturing manufacturing sector into one of the world’s key rough diamond trading destinations,” he said.
“Not only does this bring increased economic activity and a regular influx of successful entrepreneurs to Gaborone, but it also sends a message to the global business community that Botswana is so much more than the world’s leading diamond producing country.
“The move of De Beers’ international Sightholder sales activities to Gaborone was integral to De Beers – and by extension Sightholders – accessing long-term supply from the world’s leading source of rough diamonds, while providing the nation of Botswana with a wonderful platform to drive economic development and diversification.”
Referring to the departure of Varda Shine, Mellier said, “Of course, this will be the final Sight for someone who has been central to every Sightholder relationship, and before we go any further I would like to take this opportunity to raise a toast to Varda Shine and say a huge thank you for 30 years of outstanding service – not just to De Beers; not just to the Sightholder community; and not just to the people of Botswana and De Beers’ other producing country partners; but to the entire diamond world. Varda, you have left an indelible mark on the industry and it is undoubtedly a much better place because of your influence.
“As we all know, a lot of Varda’s time over the last two years has been taken up with the relocation project and obviously it has been time very well spent. Southern Africa has become the new centre of gravity for the diamond trade and the relationship between Sightholders and De Beers has been fundamental to this shift. Of course, this relationship has been at the forefront of many of the key developments in the history of diamonds, whether it is catalyzing growth in beneficiation or growing consumer demand for diamond jewelry in new consumer markets.”
Speaking about the outlook for diamond jewelry, he said “there are good signs coming from the US economy, with improved demand in evidence over the holiday period. Looking east to China, there are also healthy signs with a positive outlook for sales around Chinese New Year and expectations for a continuation of strong economic growth, at around the same level seen in 2013.
“The Chinese government’s policy of refocusing the economy so that growth is generated by consumer spending rather than state investment should be of benefit to the diamond industry over time, but we will need to keep a watch on how this transformation is managed.
“Meanwhile, India, the other engine of growth for consumer sales of diamond jewellery in recent years, experienced a more challenging domestic market in 2013. Although there are some ongoing concerns about inflation and currency volatility, improvements in the agricultural sector could trigger an upswing in domestic demand and the economy can be expected to pick up further after the elections in May. There is also better news on economic prospects in Europe and Japan, with the Eurozone starting to see a rise in industrial production and Japan’s economy benefitting from its monetary and fiscal stimulus program,” he added.