Harare (New Ziana) – Local diamond beneficiating companies are consuming only 0.5 percent of available quantities but plans are afoot to increase capacity, including through investment in advanced cutting machinery, an industry expert has said.
In 2014, Zimbabwe introduced a policy that reserves 10 percent of its annual diamond production for the local cutting and polishing industry.
Local companies have to tender for the gems.
In an interview with New Ziana, Diamond Beneficiation Association of Zimbabwe (DBAZ) chairman Richard Mvududu, said local players were re-tooling and migrating to new technologies in a bid to increase capacity.
“Some of our colleagues that established their factories later than the initial factories bought state-of-the-art equipment and this equipment competes favourably with any other in the global market and if you look at the initial equipment that we bought four or five of us, way back in 2014 you then see that equipment is not up to standard,” he said.
“But I am happy with the equipment that is on the market with regards to the newer factories and I am also happy with regards to what the older factories are doing by way of renewal of technologies because technology is key in terms of us competing at regional and international markets,” he said.
“The initiatives that the government and the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe are also trying to do to enhance the cutting and polishing capacity will get us to move from 0.5 percent of what we are consuming to the 10 percent that has been put aside for local cutting and polishing. But being in our infancy, what I am happy about is that we have the process of cutting and polishing and we want to grow step by step with our efficiencies.”
Mvududu said DBAZ was also lobbying the government to remove the tender system used in allocating diamonds, which he said was leaving some companies with no gems if they lost out during the bidding process.
“In terms of capacity, it varies from factory to factory, but one of the things we have been clear about is that we want the tender system to be scrapped, why I am saying that is because when we go for tender and the best bidder wins, the other factory has got nothing to cut and polish for that period,” he said.
Mvududu said Zimbabwe’s cut and polished gems were making inroads in both the local and foreign markets.
“We have been fortunate to have external people come in to buy our finished product but what is also interesting, which we have seen as a trend, is that more Zimbabweans are now aware that they can get cut and polished stones and they are actually coming as another buyer and customer and they pay in the same currency so really it removes the other added cost with regards to exports,” he said.