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Israel’s Polished Exports See Fifth Decline in Six Months

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JOSHUA FREEDMAN • 04-01-2023

Israel’s diamond shipments slumped in December as local and global markets continued to face geopolitical and economic pressures.

Polished exports fell 39% year on year to $160.6 million for the month, after deducting returns of unsold items, the country’s Ministry of Economy and Industry reported Tuesday. Export volume fell 19% to 80,661 carats, with the average price slipping 24% to $1,991 per carat.

Uncertain US demand and a slowdown in the Far East have dented sentiment in the trade. China’s Covid-19 outbreak has raised concerns ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year shopping season, despite the termination of containment measures.

“The year 2022 was a challenging [one] for the global diamond sector in general and the Israeli industry in particular,” the government department said in a statement. “The year began with the war in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russian rough diamonds — which constitute around a third of the global diamond market — and continued with signs of global recession and inflation.”

Polished imports fell 27% to $200.9 million for December. Rough exports plummeted 65% to $64.5 million, while rough imports dropped 33% to $141.9 million.

The latest decline is Israel’s fifth drop in polished exports in six months. September saw the only increase during that half year, partly due to annual variation in the timing of Jewish holidays.

However, full-year polished figures showed an improvement, the ministry pointed out. After strong growth in 2021, the overall market avoided a return to the consecutive declines it saw between 2010 and 2020, the statement said. Meanwhile, Dubai became an increasingly important trading partner following the 2020 peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it added.

Israel’s polished exports to all markets rose 5% to $3.86 billion for 2022, and polished imports advanced 9% to $3.21 billion, according to the ministry’s data. Rough exports fell 15% to $1.53 billion, with rough imports sliding 11% to $1.83 billion.

“The positive trend[s were] the tightening of ties between the bourses in Ramat Gan and Dubai as well as increases in jewelry sales in the US and the reopening of the Chinese market after the removal of Covid-19 restrictions,” commented Ophir Gore, Israel’s diamond controller, who regulates the trade.

Image: A trader at the 2018 International Diamond Week in Israel. (Three Photographers)

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