The dreadful coronavirus outbreak has left the jewellery industry in a state of frenzy. Hong Kong, which is one of the main centers for gems and jewellery globally, is facing the aftermath of this epidemic – more than 15 cases have been reported so far in HK. The Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show, one of the most important events for the gems and jewellery industry which was originally scheduled to take place in March has now been postponed to May.
It does seem like Hong Kong has been jinxed, with issues cropping up one after the other, first the protests and now coronavirus. "We all acknowledge the great importance of Hong Kong and Mainland China for the global diamond and jewellery trade. The long term effect of the coronavirus will be measured in time. However for the time being, given the current situation there was no other option than rescheduling the Hong Kong trade show. Hopefully the situation will be resolved very soon and we can all go back to business as usual,” said Shai Schnitzer of S.Schnitzer Diamonds.
China is an important economic centre for various trades and more than 17,000 people have been affected by the outbreak, causing trades across all sectors to come to a standstill. “It is unfortunate but expected. Our industry will be greatly affected as the busy season really gets started after the Chinese New Year holidays. Now with the postponement of the show and with more countries imposing travel bans on people travelling to and from HK, sales will be affected without a doubt. And with Chinese authorities asking many factories to delay opening; production of HK companies who have factories in China, will be halted, but expenses will still continue,” said Manoj P. Butani of Butani Jewellery, Hong Kong.
The newly announced dates of the Hong Kong show also seems a little dicey and the efficacy of the show is now in question as it falls right after Basel and just before JCK, add to that the fact that it falls after the Ramadan season. “We can only hope by then that the Virus has been tackled but it remains to be seen whether customers will be will be willing to travel to HK so soon after,” adds Butani.
In its statement, HKTDC said, “the safety of exhibitors and buyers has always been a priority for the HKTDC. In line with the measures taken by the Hong Kong SAR Government against the spread of the novel coronavirus, and after consultation with representatives of the jewellery industry, the HKTDC will reschedule its HKTDC Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show 2020 (originally scheduled for 2-6 March) and the HKTDC Hong Kong International Jewellery Show 2020 (originally scheduled for 4-8 March) to 18-21 May 2020.”
The virus first emerged in Wuhan, a city in central China, in late December and has killed more than 360 people in mainland China. Over 20 countries have reported around 140 cases and all major airlines temporarily suspended their flight service to China. “There will be an impact for sure on the diamond industry, however, health is of foremost concern. People who have gone to villages for the holidays are not in a position to come back to Hong Kong and resume work. The Shanghai Diamond Exchange has announced that work will be resumed on February 9th. So we will have to wait and see,” said Vipul Sutaria of Dharmanandhan Diamonds.
Some even believe if the decision to postpone the show to May was made in haste as the extent of the virus and whether or not it will be kept under control by March is still not clear. “We are currently negotiating with the exhibition organizers regarding cancellations and registration changes. As of today, there has been no harm to the diamond export growth forecast due to the effects of the coronavirus,” said Eran Zini, MD, Israel Diamond Exchange.
The virus is leaving a major strain on the global macroeconomic affairs and no one knows when the epidemic will be contained and when things would get back to normalcy.