August 11, 2015

Stones From Attapeu Province, A Big Hit in China

Laos stone not a rock-solid investment for Chinese speculators
By:, July 27 2015

A government ban, fines and the confiscation of goods has not stopped Chinese opportunists seeking to make a quick buck in Laos stone, reports the Shanghai-based China Business News.

The popularity of Laos stone has investors betting that it could step up next to the greats in China: Shoushan stone, Qiantian stone, Changhua stone and Balin stone.

Since 2013, stone traders have been going to Attapeu province in the Southeast Asian country and bringing back stone to sell in China. The resulting inflated prices peaked in the second half of 2014 at about 3,000 yuan (US$483) for a mid-grade piece. The price is still far below, a Shoushan stone of similar quality, which could be sold for between 20,000-50,000 yuan (US$3,200-$8,000).

Last autumn, Lu Wenchao, a stone trader in the Zhejiang city of Qingtian, could not resist the temptation and decided to visit Attapeu together with some friends to buy Laos stone. Anyone, however, can get Laos stone in Attapeu. Lu believes that the best stone lie deep in the mountains of the province.

Laos stone, which can be found close to the surface, is easy to extract, Lu said.

When Lu and his companions went to the Attapeu mountains, they found their competition mostly in the form of local farmers who would pay US$1,000 to the military guarding the site to gain access for a week. But once the next shift of guards arrives, the stones are confiscated, he said.

Even though the mainland market for Laos stone is already saturated, people like Lu are still able to earn a reasonable profit. The market can however be unstable, as when mass dumping by investors around Chinese New Year almost cut the price in half.

Lu said traders may mistakenly sell Laos stone as Shoushan or Balin stone, which is far pricier. Gradually they were able to identify the stones as the Laos imports became a part of the traditional mix, the report said.

In China, among the four famous stones, only Balin stone from Inner Mongolia still has a steady supply.

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