India ranks 4th in gold recycling with refining capacity of 1,800 tonnes: WGC

India’s gold refining industry has seen significant growth in recent years, with the country ranking fourth, behind China, Italy and the US, in global gold recycling in 2021, according to a report by the World Gold Council (WGC).

The report estimated that from 2013 to 2021, India’s gold refining capacity increased by 1,500 tonnes, or 500%, to 1,800 tonnes. Furthermore, over the past five years 11% of the country’s gold supply came from ‘old gold’; driven by movements in the gold price, future gold price expectations and wider economic outlook.

The report titled ‘Gold refining and recycling’, also highlighted that amidst India’s growing demand for gold, recycling will continue to be key and the refining industry, which is currently stabilising after a period of change, will witness steady development.

Somasundaram PR, regional CEO, India, World Gold Council, said, “India has potential to emerge as a competitive refining hub if the next phase of bullion market reforms promotes responsible sourcing, exports of bars and consistent supply of doré or scrap. Domestic recycling market, driven by local rupee prices and economic cycle, is relatively less organised but should gain support from initiatives such as revamped GMS (Gold Monetisation Scheme) as various policy measures sync to make it attractive to bring surplus gold mainstream and liquidity is enhanced via bullion exchanges.”

India’s gold refining landscape has changed notably over the last decade, with the number of formal operations increasing from less than five in 2013 to 33 in 2021.

As a result, the country’s organised gold refining capacity has surged to an estimated 1,800 tonnes compared to just 300 tonnes in 2013.

“While the informal sector accounts for as much as an additional 300-500 tonnes, it is worth noting that the scale of unorganised refining has fallen,” the report said.

This can be attributed to the government’s tightening of pollution regulations (which led to the closure of many local melting shops), and as more retail chain stores recycle old gold using organised refineries.

The report also highlighted that holding periods of jewellery will continue to decline as younger consumers look to change designs more frequently; a trend that could contribute to higher levels of recycling.

On the other hand, higher incomes following stronger economic growth will reduce outright selling and consumers will find it easier to pledge their gold rather than sell it outright.

“It is, therefore, necessary to support organised recycling with better incentives and tech-based solutions encompassing gold supply chain end-to-end,” the report added.

Furthermore, tax advantages have underpinned the growth of India’s gold refining industry: The import duty differential on doré over refined bullion has spurred the growth of organised refining in India. As a result, gold doré’s share of overall imports has risen from just 7% in 2013 to around 22% in 2021.

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