De Beers has reduced its production outlook for next year and beyond amid uncertainty about the health of the diamond market.
The miner now expects to recover between 32 million and 34 million carats in 2020, compared to its earlier outlook of 33 million to 35 million carats, parent company Anglo American said Tuesday. Its output is forecast to rise to between 34 million and 36 million carats in 2021, versus a previous projection of 35 million to 37 million carats.
“It’s a slight trimming of production [and] a prudent approach to supply outlook for next year, given the rebalancing the industry is going through,” David Johnson, head of strategic communications for De Beers, told Rapaport News Wednesday. “We’ve got some flexibility in that, so if we did see things change significantly, we could edge things back up again.”
An oversupply of polished diamonds in the manufacturing sector and sluggish consumer demand have forced De Beers to revise its production plan twice in five months. In July, it trimmed its 2019 estimate to around 31 million carats from its earlier prediction of 31 million to 33 million carats, citing weakness in the rough market. While 2020 production is anticipated to be higher, it will still lag behind the 35.3 million carats unearthed in 2018.
De Beers’ revenue has declined 26% for the year to date amid “challenging diamond-market conditions,” it noted in an investor presentation on Tuesday. Anglo American also expects inventory for the entire group to grow by around $500 million in 2019, with De Beers accounting for most of that increase. This follows the company’s decision to offer unprecedented concessions to sightholders in the second half of the year to enable them to buy less rough and reduce their stockpiles.
The excess inventory at diamond cutters has weighed on the entire market this year, with Bain & Company predicting a slight improvement in 2020. However, the management consultancy doesn’t expect a real opportunity for rebalancing until 2021.
“Ongoing supply-demand inequality will prevent full recovery of the industry [in 2020], and may be exacerbated by a continuing decrease in available financing for midstream players,” Bain said Tuesday in its annual sector-wide report. “Few producers have announced sufficient mining plan cuts, so we do not foresee a major decline in supply.”
A shift at De Beers’ Venetia deposit from open-pit to underground mining has also impacted production, as output there has fallen during the transition period. Production at the mine in South Africa was anticipated to increase in 2021 as it focuses on a high-grade section, the company said a year ago. However, the final transition to underground operations will result in a drop in company-wide production to between 33 million and 35 million carats in 2022.
The miner’s final sight of the year is currently taking place in Gaborone, Botswana.