GEMSTONES from Tanzania worth 635 billion/- are smuggled out of the country annually through illegal channels, ending up in either Kenya or India.
The Commissioner for Minerals in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Engineer Paul Masanja, stated here that Kenya imports tanzanite valued at 100 million US dollars while India documents annual imports of the blue gemstone worth 300 million US dollars.
Official export figures for tanzanite in Tanzania ropes in 38 million US dollars per annum. “This exactly means that tanzanite valued at 382 million US dollars is taken out of the country every year while the state remains to earn only about 38 million US dollars of that, which is equivalent to only 20 per cent of the total blue gemstones being mined from the Mirerani Hills,” pointed out Eng. Masanja.
The minerals commissioner was speaking at the ongoing third instalment of the annual Arusha Gem Fair (2014), which is taking place at the Mount Meru Hotel Grounds and attended by over 500 participants from around the world, among them 61 exhibitors and 69 firms.
Mr Sammy Mollel is the Chairman of the Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association and apparently, members of TAMIDA being major agents of the blue gems automatically become sole suspects of tanzanite smuggling abroad.
“While I admit that tanzanite smuggling is getting worse, I think the figure of the gemstones being sold abroad is unrealistically too high, unless if the value also takes into account processed gems that have been cut, polished and converted into ornaments that also include gold or emerald finishing,” stated Mr Mollel.
He insisted that the data was for freshly mined raw tanzanite. Participants at that fair were also surprised that the tanzanite they find in Jaipur, India, seemed far more superior to the ones found in Arusha despite the fact that this is the only place on earth where the blue gemstones is found.
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