Proceeds from Myanmar‘s annual sale of jade, gems and pearls totalled $592.12 million, down nearly 10 per cent from 2015, government data showed.
More than 2,000 gem merchants, many from neighbouring China, attended the sale in the capital Naypyitaw from June 24 to July 6, the official Myanmar Alin Daily reported.
Nearly all of the proceeds came from the sale of 3,647 lots of jade, which accounted for $475.35 million of the total.
Jade in Myanmar is mainly found in the Hpakant area in the war-torn northern Kachin State, where activity is dominated by mostly Chinese-led ventures.
Much of the jade is being smuggled into China each year, local residents say. Jade is a status symbol in China widely believed to bring fortune, wealth and longevity.
According to official data, China – the world’s biggest jade market – imported only about $540m of Myanmar jade in the first nine months of 2015. Global Witness, a non-governmental organization, estimated the value of Myanmar‘s jade production at $31 billion in 2014.
Local villagers complain they are being forced off their land because of increased mining activity.
Scavengers who in the thousands scour mountains of loose earth and rubble for nuggets of jade are sometimes buried alive, including 114 killed in a landslide in November.
On the other hand, jade production has been dropping due to long running sporadic fighting between major Kachin ethnic armed group KIA and government forces.
Total jade production in the 2014/15 (April/March) fiscal year was over 16.684 million kg, compared with 43.185 million kg in 2011-2012 and 46.810 million kg in 2010-2011, according to data from the State-run Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).
Total jade production from April to November in fiscal 2015/2016 fiscal was 18.047 million kg.
Myanmar‘s gem emporium has been held annually since 1964 and provides a rare glimpse into its largely opaque jade trade.