December 16, 2016 / 10:33 AM / a year ago

Thailand's once-booming gems and jewellery sector loses lustre

BANGKOK, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Thailand’s gems and jewellery exports will likely decline for a second straight year amid increased competition and a global economic slowdown, Kasikorn Bank’s research firm said on Friday.

Thailand’s jewellery segment has traditionally been a major export revenue earner. The Southeast Asian country is a regional manufacturing base known for its extensive network of diamond and gems artisans.

But Thai exports of gems and jewellery, excluding gold, would be down 3 percent this year, Pimonwan Mahujchariyawong, senior economist at Kasikorn Research Center said in a note emailed to Reuters. Shipments declined 1.6 percent in 2015.

“In 2017, growth of this sector would be limited because of high market competition in the midst of a global economic slowdown,” she said.

Suttipong Damrongsakul, president of the Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association, said some firms have shifted their production bases away from Thailand to key rivals including Vietnam and Myanmar where production costs are cheaper.

“We have skilled labour but production bases tend to shift to places where costs are lower,” Suttipong told Reuters.

Naruephon Noopan, a business investment specialist at Gemopolis, an industrial estate in the Thai capital Bangkok that hosts about 200 diamond, gems and jewellery firms, said Thailand should focus on product design.

“We need to add sparkle by focusing more on product design to create market value,” said Naruephon. (Reporting By Pairat Temphairojana; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Manolo Serapio Jr.)

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