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Anglo American has reported that rough diamond sales at its majority-owned subsidiary De Beers declined 28% during the second sales cycle of 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The company sold $355m of rough diamonds in the second cycle of the year, compared with $496m for the same period in 2019.

Proceeds from the second sales cycle of 2020 were 36% lower than January’s $551m.

De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver said: “Following an improvement in demand for rough diamonds during the first sales cycle of 2020, we recognised the impact of Covid-19 Coronavirus on customers focused on supplying the Chinese market and put in place additional targeted flexibility to enable customers to defer allocations of the relevant rough diamonds.”

Data from De Beers shows that China accounts for about 14% of worldwide consumption of polished gems, making it the largest market outside the US.

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The worldwide outbreak of Covid-19 has spread to several countries since its emergence in China in December 2019.

De Beers has reported sales of $906m so far this year for the two first two cycles combined.

De Beers, which holds 12 sales cycles a year for its rough diamonds, last month said that rough diamond production decreased by 13% to 30.8 million carats in 2019, compared to 35.3 million carats in 2018, primarily driven by a reduction in South Africa.

The company said that while trading conditions have improved since the third quarter of 2019, production was lower in response to softer rough diamond demand conditions compared with 2018.