Thailand's Political Turmoil Hurts Bangkok Jewelry Fair

  by John Cooke



The President of the Thai Gem & Jewelry Traders Association (TGJTA), Thailand's leading industry body for the gems and jewelry industry, said recently that the bombings in Bangkok on New Year's Eve might affect the 39th Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair held over 28th February - 4th March, 2007. Sales at the show will be down this time as international visitors would not travel to Thailand due to the bombings, he had warned.

As I arrived at the show on the first day, I was thinking he might be right. The pavement outside the entrance to the fair's venue, the enormous Impact Challenger in northern Bangkok, was empty as I walked in at 10.00 am, the Bangkok's show start time. Things didn't improve that much as I entered the show's registration area, to find only a small line of visitors waiting to get in - I walked into the hall without having to queue, at all. From a very slow start on the morning of the first day, traffic picked up during the afternoon session. This was to be the pattern over the three trade days of the show.

The TGJTA later reported that the number of visitors to the 39th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair dropped to nearly 22,000, 16% lower than the Bangkok fair held in March 2006. The fair is held twice a year. The Thai gems and jewelry industry is worth just over US$2 billion annually. The industry, which is primarily based in Bangkok, employs about 500,000 people, and is one of Thailand's top ten exporters. Its main markets are the US, Europe and Japan. The Thai industry's main competitors are India and China both have lower labour costs.

Thailand is still in the midst of a major political crisis from the coup that took place just a few days after the previous edition of the Bangkok fair in September, 2006. Since then, the coupe's leaders have promised political elections for December 2007, the country has been rocked by a series of bombs, and the unrest in Thailand's southern border area has escalated. Security has been tightened in Bangkok.

As an example of the ongoing tension in Thailand, the country's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister resigned on the first day of 39th Bangkok fair. He cited major differences of opinion with Thailand's Prime Minister over the handling of the Thai economy. This has cast doubts on the country's political and economical stability. It was reported shortly after the fair closed that Thailand's consumer confidence index had dropped to a five-year low. The Thai Prime Minister reshuffled his cabinet within days of the Bangkok fair closing, including appointing a new Finance Minister. It has been reported recently that a new round of ministerial changes are being planned.

The strength of the Thai baht is also causing local companies problems with their business operations, especially in Thailand's main market, the US. The TGJTA has predicted that the export of colored stones from Thailand will increase, while the country's jewelry exports will decrease. The Thai industry is now looking to find new markets for its products. The situation for Thailand regarding the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) still remains uncertain for gold jewelry. However, silver jewelry exports from Thailand to the US will still enjoy the GSP until the end of 2008, the TGJTA reported.

Mr. Pornchai Chuenchomlada said that he expects Thailand's gem and jewelry industry will meet its targets for 2007. Thailand's Department of Export Promotion (DEP) said the country's exports for the first quarter of 2007 will be better than for the same period in 2006.

However, just after the 39th Bangkok fair, it was reported that Thailand's economy grew at its slowest pace for almost two years in the last quarter. Also, local financial experts have predicted that the Thai economy is slowing, and the country's 2007 economic growth will be limited.

Furthermore, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the world's top gem lab, recently reported that Thai gemstone industry leaders are seeking the Thai government's help to avert a crisis in the gemstone manufacturing industry. The industry leaders have reported that many gem cutters in Chanthaburi, a gemstone center in Thailand, have either closed or suspended their operations. The GIA says Thai trade associations have petitioned the Thai government for funds to promote their gems worldwide and to establish a Thai government-sanctioned standard for disclosure of treatments. A Thai government study will be expedited, the GIA said, with a plan due in several months time.

Given all Thailand's current problems, the show's organizers, the TGJTA and Thailand's DEP, did remarkably well to attract international visitors to the 39th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair. The event was opened by Thailand's Commerce Minister, Mr. Krirk-krai Jirapaet.

At the 39th Bangkok fair: Not surprisingly, security measures showed an increase over the previous edition; there weren't any noticeable changes in the layout of the show's products zones; as at the 38th Bangkok fair, 'sale' signs were displayed by some exhibitors from the first day of the event. There were even more sale signs this time, and at more product zones than before - including tools, gold, pearl and gemstones; and, from my observations, there looked to be less western visitors, but more visitors from the Asian and Middle Eastern regions.

One exhibit at the fair that drew my particular attention was the Thai Silver Exporter Club's 'Color Story.' It showcased a collection of fashionable jewelry from local companies in a wide range of styles, with colored stones presented as the theme - pink gems were especially popular with the manufacturers who displayed their products here.

Red and pink gemstones were in demand at the show, especially Burmese ruby, tourmaline, sapphire, rose quartz and rubellite. Blue stones and emeralds were also popular with buyers. From my observations, orange and yellow gemstones were less in demand this time. One Bangkok fair exhibitor I spoke predicted a growth in the popularity for purple stones.

The Bangkok fair's silver zone was busy, attracting international buyers over all three trade days of the event ' it now constitutes nearly a quarter of the show's floor space. The pearl zone also attracted many visitors, mirroring the increase in awareness and popularity worldwide for pearls. Slow traffic at the fair's gold and diamond zones reflected the current problems in both sectors.

Local exhibitors I spoke to at the fair said they were hoping that the 39th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair would help to boost their businesses, which had been suffering because of the domestic political, economic and consumer confidence situations, as well as the high price of gold and other materials.

It is good to see that the Thai gem and jewelry industry can still be innovative and progress, even with all the domestic political and economic problems facing it at present. In one new development, The TGJTA has introduced the 'Online Sourcing Project.' The Project has been established to use the internet to encourage trade between exhibitors and buyers who attend the fair by enabling them to meet online, both before and after the event. Also, a new silver trade centre with more than 100 silver jewelry outlets is set to open in the heart of Bangkok's jewelry district.

The TGJTA, which has just celebrated its 30th anniversary, continues to devote itself to the advancement of the Thai gem and jewelry industry. The Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair showcases the best that Thailand has to offer in gem and jewelry products for international visitors at the show.
Hopefully, by the time of the Bangkok show's 40th edition in September 2007, the political situation will be clearer, helping to begin the process of restoring the country's economic and business prospects to normal.

Furthermore, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the world's top gem lab, recently reported that Thai gemstone industry leaders are seeking the Thai government's help to avert a crisis in the gemstone manufacturing industry. The industry leaders have reported that many gem cutters in Chanthaburi, a gemstone center in Thailand, have either closed or suspended their operations. The GIA says Thai trade associations have petitioned the Thai government for funds to promote their gems worldwide and to establish a Thai government-sanctioned standard for disclosure of treatments. A Thai government study will be expedited, the GIA said, with a plan due in several months time.

Given all Thailand's current problems, the show's organizers, the TGJTA and Thailand's DEP, did remarkably well to attract international visitors to the 39th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair. The event was opened by Thailand's Commerce Minister, Mr. Krirk-krai Jirapaet.

At the 39th Bangkok fair: Not surprisingly, security measures showed an increase over the previous edition; there weren't any noticeable changes in the layout of the show's products zones; as at the 38th Bangkok fair, 'sale' signs were displayed by some exhibitors from the first day of the event. There were even more sale signs this time, and at more product zones than before - including tools, gold, pearl and gemstones; and, from my observations, there looked to be less western visitors, but more visitors from the Asian and Middle Eastern regions.

One exhibit at the fair that drew my particular attention was the Thai Silver Exporter Club's 'Color Story.' It showcased a collection of fashionable jewelry from local companies in a wide range of styles, with colored stones presented as the theme - pink gems were especially popular with the manufacturers who displayed their products here.

Red and pink gemstones were in demand at the show, especially Burmese ruby, tourmaline, sapphire, rose quartz and rubellite. Blue stones and emeralds were also popular with buyers. From my observations, orange and yellow gemstones were less in demand this time. One Bangkok fair exhibitor I spoke predicted a growth in the popularity for purple stones.

The Bangkok fair's silver zone was busy, attracting international buyers over all three trade days of the event ' it now constitutes nearly a quarter of the show's floor space. The pearl zone also attracted many visitors, mirroring the increase in awareness and popularity worldwide for pearls. Slow traffic at the fair's gold and diamond zones reflected the current problems in both sectors.

Local exhibitors I spoke to at the fair said they were hoping that the 39th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair would help to boost their businesses, which had been suffering because of the domestic political, economic and consumer confidence situations, as well as the high price of gold and other materials.

It is good to see that the Thai gem and jewelry industry can still be innovative and progress, even with all the domestic political and economic problems facing it at present. In one new development, The TGJTA has introduced the 'Online Sourcing Project.' The Project has been established to use the internet to encourage trade between exhibitors and buyers who attend the fair by enabling them to meet online, both before and after the event. Also, a new silver trade centre with more than 100 silver jewelry outlets is set to open in the heart of Bangkok's jewelry district.

The TGJTA, which has just celebrated its 30th anniversary, continues to devote itself to the advancement of the Thai gem and jewelry industry. The Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair showcases the best that Thailand has to offer in gem and jewelry products for international visitors at the show.
Hopefully, by the time of the Bangkok show's 40th edition in September 2007, the political situation will be clearer, helping to begin the process of restoring the country's economic and business prospects to normal.




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