March 19, 2020 / 10:43 AM / 21 days ago

Alrosa considers options for online diamond trade in face of coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: The Alrosa logo is seen at the polishing affiliate of the Russian diamond producer in Moscow, Russia February 12, 2018. Picture taken February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian diamond producer Alrosa is considering options for online trade as global travel restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak complicate traditional physical inspection of gemstones, it said in a statement on Thursday.

The state-controlled company, the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds by carats, has been fighting to keep business as usual against a backdrop of lower global demand.

“We are in constant contact with our clients from different countries, considering the possibility of providing them with measures of support over the next months, exploring the possibility of remote trade, which does not involve the traditional visit of an expert to study the stones,” it said.

Alrosa already carried out a test of its system of digital tenders at its October trade sessions. The results showed that clients were interested in such a format, the company said at the time.

Diamond trade traditionally involves a lot of travelling. However, Belgium and Israel, the main global centres where small- and mid-sized diamond polishers from India choose their rough stones before purchase, urged their citizens to stay at home to help halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The UK-based diamond producer Gem Diamonds Ltd said on Thursday a large diamond tender in Belgium was cancelled midway following government restrictions.

The direct effect on Alrosa’s trade has been limited as it sells the bulk of its diamonds to long-term clients in trade sessions in Moscow, it said.

In India, industry associations decided that the country’s diamond polishing industry would continue working at a reduced rate and would take measures to prevent the spread of the virus among workers, Alrosa said.

India is a key producer of polished diamonds, and Alrosa is ready to provide them with rough diamonds in the necessary quantities, it added.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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