Addis Ababa, Aug 21 (IANS) India's gemstone-crafting industry is to invest in the mineral-rich Ethiopia following the east African nation's ban on the export of rough opal.
"The companies are known for lapidary (gemstone-crafting) and having them would add value and hence play part to increase export revenues" Tamrat Mojjo, head of artisanal mining at the ministry of mines, told IANS.
According to him, the companies that have decided to invest are finalizing the feasibility study and details will be released once this process is complete.
India was the largest destination for Ethiopian opal, buying close to 80 percent of the country's exports last year.
Ethiopia exported 10,104 kg of gemstones during the last two quarters of the current fiscal, 600 kg more than the ministry anticipated. This generated revenues of $4.6 million, which is equivalent to what gold has brought in during the same period.
Of the total opal exported, only 5.83 kg was sent after being polished, generating a mere $184,724, whilst the remaining rough stones generated $4.4 million.
Senior officials at the ministry have also asked exporters to prepare for value addition through the procurement of opal polishing machines in the next six months.
Close to 1.8 million people are employed in the opal gemstone industry in India, an Indian government website, www.investinindia.com, says. Gemstones are also one of the leading foreign exchange earners for the country. India projects the generation of $35 billion from the export of opal export in 2015.
The involvement of Indian companies could inject new technological advancements in the sector as well as create jobs for locals, Tamrat said, adding that they could also contribute to capacity-building and training.
The ministry also hopes for an international market link and to increase Ethiopia's share in global markets, Tamrat noted.
"Returns from polished opal will be high for the country as well as for the (Indian) companies. We'll also be creating employment opportunities that we need here so badly," said an expert from the Ethiopian Gemstone Association.
(Hadra Admed can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)