Jade exports to China generating millionaires and concerns in Myanmar

Jade exports to China generating millionaires and concerns in Myanmar
A jade seller in Mandalay, left, appraises rough stones at his home.

MANDALAY, Myanmar - Surging exports of jade to China have produced a number of millionaires in Myanmar and provoked concerns about the neighbouring country's overwhelming influence on the economy.

Mandalay, the nation's jade trade centre, swarms with Chinese traders looking for good offerings of the green gemstone. Robust demand for jade in China has been driving up the prices of the mineral, making many Myanmar sellers wealthier than would have otherwise been impossible.

The newly rich jade sellers in Myanmar are thankful for China's strong appetite for the gem. But Myanmar's rapidly growing jade industry is seen by many as a symbol of Chinese control over the poor Southeast Asian nation's economic fortunes.

Some 3,000 retailers operate stores at a jewelry market in central Mandalay that throngs with domestic and foreign traders and tourists during the business hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rows of relatively small jade stones and jewelry are displayed at the stores. A woman who has been working at the market five years said bracelets are the most popular jade products.

World beater

Myanmar is the world's largest producer of jade. For a long time, the government monopolized jade mining and exports. Since the 1990's, however, private-sector players have been allowed to enter the business gradually.

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