GABORONE, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Exports of rough diamonds mined by the Debswana Diamond Company fell 30% in 2020, statistics released by the Bank of Botswana showed Friday, as the coronavirus pandemic hit demand and global travel restrictions impacted trading.
Debswana, a joint venture between Anglo American unit De Beers and the Botswana government, produces almost all of the southern African nation’s diamonds. Lucara’s Karowe mine is the only other operating diamond mine in the country.
According to the central bank data, diamond exports from Debswana fell to $2.02 billion in 2020 from $3.05 billion in 2019. Quarterly drops of 63% and 66% were recorded in the second and third quarters respectively.
Sales picked up in the fourth quarter, when exports climbed 35% compared to the same period in 2019.
In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Botswana closed its borders for eight months last year, locking out international buyers from centres such as Mumbai, Antwerp and China, who traditionally travel to capital Gaborone ten times a year to view and buy diamonds from De Beers.
Botswana gets about 30% of its revenues from diamond sales, via its partnership with De Beers.
The government forecasts the pandemic will see the economy shrink by 8.9% in 2020, while the budget deficit will more than double. The economy is seen rebounding to growth of 7.7% in 2021 after the country reopened its borders in December.
Botswana has so far recorded more than 19,000 COVID-19 cases, with 134 deaths. (Reporting by Brian Benza; Editing by Mfuneko Toyana and Jan Harvey)