Colombia's emerald exports fell 33.5% last year to their lowest level for a decade to US$668,000, according a report produced by the country's mine planning unit, UNME.
According to the report, to which BNamericas had exclusive access, the drop is indicative of a trend that has been developing since 1999 when gross exports hit US$2.3mn.
In 2000 exports fell by 14.5% from US$2.3mn to US$2mn while in 2001 the reduction was 50%, to US$1mn.
The UPME report says fewer emeralds are being exported because the government has no control over production, a consequence of the kind of contracts producers have with the state. The report said the problem is related to the uncertainties of long-term production planning given the kinds of deposits and their locations.
The production figures that exist only refer to output exported legally, whereas much emerald production in Colombia is illegal, so the numbers are considered unreliable.
"Mining for emeralds in Colombia is a fairly informal affair so there are no real figures for either the volume or value of production. Generally, the latter is calculated using official export figures and adding 10%. This fraction is the corresponding internal demand," the report says.
Moreover the events of September 11, 2001 in the US have caused demand for luxury goods to fall noticeably.
Colombia is the world's largest producer of emeralds in value terms. It exports between 50% and 60% of the total on the international market.