GABORONE (Reuters) – Botswana’s rough diamond exports plunged 68% percent in the second quarter of the year, data published by the central bank showed on Friday, as the Coronavirus pandemic hit demand while global travel restrictions hurt trading.
In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Botswana closed its borders in March, locking out international buyers from centres such as Mumbai, Antwerp and China who traditionally travel to Gaborone ten times a year to view and buy diamonds.
Exports of diamonds from Debswana, a joint venture between Botswana and diamond mining giant De Beers, a unit of Anglo American, stood at $293 million in the second quarter of 2020, from $916 million in the preceding period.
No exports were recorded in May, while only $20 million worth of diamonds were exported in June, the Bank of Botswana’s data showed.
De Beers, which gets about 70% of its supply from Botswana registered a net loss of $214 million in the first half of the year, as rough sales plunged by more than half to $1 billion, the company said in its results last week.
The fall in diamond exports is expected to hurt Botswana’s balance of payments deficit, as diamonds constitute 70 percent of the country’s exports.
Through the partnership with De Beers, Botswana also gets about 30% of its fiscal revenues from diamonds. It has so far recorded just 800 COVID-19 cases and only two deaths, but its economy has been severely hit.