Gold Consumption: How India lost out to China

Gold jewellery and investment demand in China in 2009 is expected to reach 432 tonnes, compared with 422 tonnes from India.
Gold Consumption: How India lost out to China

China, the world’s largest producer of gold is all set to overtake India in gold consumption. All these years, India has been showing its ‘golden’ muscle power in buying gold.

A new study from global metals consultancy GFMS says that China is all set to beat India in gold consumption.

Here are the details:

  • Gold jewellery and investment demand in China in 2009 is expected to reach 432 tonnes, compared with 422 tonnes from India. It is a difference of only 10 tonnes, but it makes a lot of difference in grabbing the No 1 position! In 2008, India’s gold buying was higher at 900 tonnes.
  • Bullion market in China, especially in the rural areas, is booming thanks to an increasing demand for gold investment and jewellery demand. Increased love of Chinese for gold has led to a huge rise in gold jewellery sales in China. Middle-class buyers in China, the second-biggest gold user, drove a 16 per cent gain in gold and silver jewellery sales in the first nine months of 2009.
  • China’s economy grew 8.9 per cent in the third quarter, the fastest pace in a year, and the World Gold Council said in July that the nation may pass India as the biggest consumer. Bullion is on course for its ninth annual gain after US dollar weakened and demand for gold as a store of value increased.
  • The Chinese have only started to buy gold as an investment product, and there’s huge room for this sector as the middle class grows. China’s household savings reached 26 trillion yuan ($3.8 trillion) this year. Gold and other jewellery sales in China are forecast to reach 260 billion yuan this year, only 1 per cent of the total household savings.
  • In the last few years, China has been aggressively following pro-gold policies. China has cut the import tax on jewellery and allowed selected commercial banks to sell gold bars in a move to boost demand. Gold is now traded freely at global prices on the Shanghai Gold Exchange, and permission from the central bank is no longer required to operate as gold jewellery manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.
  • Opposed to what is happening in China, bullion market in India has been under pressure in the last on year. Bullion traders have been demanding more export-oriented measures and concessions in tax laws to boost gold buying and exports in India. High gold prices have been leading to a plunge in gold sales and imports by India in the last few months.
  • Gold imports by India touched a decade low as the prices shot up significantly affecting the demand of the yellow metal. In the current calendar year, gold imports were estimated to be around 380 tonnes. Data available since 1997 showed that gold imports in India have never fallen below 400 tonnes. India’s gold demand has remained in the average range of 600-800 tonnes. Only in the lean economic period in global economies and specially in India during 2002 and 2003, gold imports slumped to around 500-550 tonnes.
  • According to Indian Bullion Market Association (IBMA) statistics, gold imports in 2008 fell to 413 tonnes compared with 757 tonnes in 2007. “High prices have affected the demand. Imports in the current year may be around 380 tonnes. Imports will rise if prices moderate as people have accepted the fact that they have to live with higher gold prices,” Suresh Hundia, president, the Bombay Bullion Association said.

It is interesting to note that while high gold prices—this week yellow metal prices soared to a historic record of $1225 per ounce—dampened gold purchases and imports in India, the same has not hit gold consumption in China. How come? Bullion analyst Mark Robinson says gold market has been booming in every nook and corner, in every village in India for the past 50 years. “There may not be any family in India that does not own gold, in fact. Indians have been buying gold cheap over the years till prices peaked this year. It is not that Indians do not have the thirst to continue buying gold. It is just that high prices have slowed down gold purchases in India,” says Robinson.

But in China, Robison says, gold has emerged as an investment vehicle in the last one decade only compared to India’s past five decades. “So there is a gold buying frenzy across China. Added to this is the fact that China has a bigger population than India with an under-fed gold consuming market has driven up gold sales and consumption across the dragon country,” Robinson added.

2009 will be recorded as the year for China as far as gold consumption and production is concerned. 2009 will also be remembered as an year when India lost out to China in gold consumption.

Source: David Lew, Bullion Commentator, Commodity Online.

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