Diamonds and other jewels top Dubai's import list, accounting for 27.7 per cent of the Dh318.5 billion worth of imports into the emirate last year. The data, outlined in Dubai's bond prospectus, stem from the country's efforts to position itself as a hub for diamond trade, said Sanjay Dalmia, the region's chief executive at Rosy Blue, a global company that cuts, polishes and manufactures jewellery.
"The biggest market for diamonds are Antwerp and Bombay and that is where most of the trading takes place," said Mr Dalmia, who heads up Rosy Blue's regional office for the MENA region and Commonwealth of Independent States. "Over the last few years, Dubai has been trying to gain ground, trying to attract people to come and trade here, mostly in rough diamonds. And trade has been gradually growing. But as a percentage of total sales in a worldwide market, it's still not substantial."
Total direct foreign trade in Dubai slipped by 20.3 per cent last year to Dh488.49bn due to a drop in imports from the financial crisis. Dubai had Dh318.5bn worth of non-oil imports last year, down 27.8 per cent from 2008, data from the Dubai Statistics Centre showed. But exports rose by about 22.9 per cent from 2008 to Dh52.42bn. Re-exports from the emirate totalled Dh117.55bn, down just 8.6 per cent from 2008 levels.
Semi-precious stones, precious stones and imitation jewellery was Dubai's biggest import category, followed by machinery, electrical and electronics equipment. These goods were mainly imported from India, China, the US, Germany and Japan, which were the source for about 47.2 per cent of the total imports. India continues to be the largest export and re-export market for goods from the emirate. The second-biggest market for re-exports is Iran.
Mr Dalmia said the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre set up infrastructure for diamond exchange houses, helping to boost the trade of precious stones through the emirate.