Cash-strapped Zimbabwe is selling its diamonds to few takers at give-away prices as most foreign buyers shun the country isolated by its former western allies, an expert said today.
Chaim Even-Zohar, president of the Tel Aviv-based diamond consulting service Tacy Limited, said that Zimbabwe has the potential to produce 8.0 to 10 per cent of global gem production but was not benefiting fully as potential buyers were worried about trading with Zimbabwe.
"Although you are totally KPCS-compliant, major companies are scared, insurance companies are afraid of OFAC (the US Office of Foreign Assets Control) and you sell your goods at 25 per cent less in value," said Even-Zohar referring to the international Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
Even-Zohar was addressing a conference organised by the government to try to spruce up the country's tainted diamond industry.
"We want you to unlock the diamond wealth because we all need it. You are not capturing the full value of your goods."
Zimbabwe's diamond sector has been blemished by allegations of graft, and labour and human rights violations which occurred when Harare deployed security forces to drive away illegal miners from the eastern Marange diamond fields.
Global watchdog Kimberley Process then suspended exports from there but lifted the ban after government said it had pulled the security forces out of the area.
Natural resource extraction watchdogs accuse President Robert Mugabe's party of funneling profits to senior military and political leaders but today defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa denied the charges in an interview with the state-owned Herald daily.
He dared those making the accusations to present the proof.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti, a member of the anti-Mugabe Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, complained in July that of the USD 600 million diamond revenue expected this year, only USD 46 million had materialised.
The two day conference seeks to "manage perception of the Zimbabwean diamond industry and lure more investors to the diamond industry," according to the mines ministry.
Among notable speakers are Kimberley Process chair, Gillian Milovanovic, an American diplomat, former South African President Thabo Mbeki and representatives from African Diamond Producers.