Jade business declines as coronavirus spreads

Seng Htoi Zin / February 21, 2020

Jade trading in the world’s largest Hpakant jade mine in Burma has been slowing down as the lack of Chinese buyers due to the travel restrictions caused by the China’s Noval coronavirus outbreak.

“There is no buyer or seller as the jade market is in the hand of Chinese,” said Nawng Latt, the president of Hpakant based non-governmental organization called Greenland. There is no longer buy out for the jade in Hpakant, and only 100,000 kyat worth of jade are available, he said.

Burma has some of the largest and best quality jade reserve in the world. According to the Global Witness report, Burma’s Jade industry was worth $31 billion in 2014, which is almost half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the same year. Most of the Jade stone smuggled into China illegally.

A local trader Aung Li from Hpakant told The Kachin Post that the slowdown of jade business has started since China imposed travel restrictions last month to contain the spread of coronavirus which reportedly killed over two thousands people.

Nawng Latt said Chinese buyers can afford to buy the jade, however, most of them are not able to travel to the jade mine. Latt believes that the jade trading would recover back to business as usual only when the coronavirus disappears.

Over a hundred major companies are conducting jade mining in Burma’s Hpakant jade mine and the sector is secretly controlled by the networks of Burma Army’s elite and some ethnic-armed organizations. Most of the profit from the Burma’s jade industry has no shares for the ordinary citizens.

Seng Htoi Zin is currently reporting from Bangkok, Thailand.