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Indians are buying silver.

Indians are buying silver.

Indians are buying silver.

India ranks as the second largest gold consumer in the world, behind only China, but Indians also have an appetite for the white metal. After a drop in silver demand last year, Indians are once again buying.

According to Bloomberg, India has imported around 5,500 tons of silver this year, and imports could grow to around 6,000 tons in 2018. That compares with a four-year low of just 3,000 tons in 2016.

We saw signs of resurgence in the Indian silver market in the fall. According to the Economic Times, silver demand was up 15% during this Dhanteras and Diwali festival season on increased purchases of coins, idols, and silverware. Analysts attributed the surge in silver buying to lack of consumer confidence in the economy and silver’s relatively low price.

Demand suffered in 2016, partially due to government efforts to crack down on black markets. Much of India’s rural economy operates underground. But a drop in prices spurred by changes in India’s tax code helped drive demand up by about 7% this year.

The increase in demand surprised Chirag Sheth, an analyst at London-based Metals Focus Ltd. He said the expectation was for a further contraction in the Indian silver market.

We tend to think of India as gold country, but Indians also have a cultural affinity for the white metal. The country is one of the leading sources of world silver demand. Even though it was a down year, India still consumed 160.6 million ounces of silver in 2016, accounting for 16% of global demand. Between 2010-16, India imported 990 million ounces of silver, according to the Silver Institute.

Silver jewelry and silverware fabrication account for more than half of Indian silver demand annually. Typically, silver jewelry is purchased by most income groups in India, whereas silverware is bought by the middle and affluent classes. Since the start of this decade, there has been a large expansion of demand in both markets, from around 39 million ounces in 2010 to 88 million ounces in 2016. The Indian silverware market alone is the largest in the world and its importance is growing, representing 70% of the total global demand.”

Growing demand for silver in India bodes well for the global silver market. Combined with contracting silver supply, these fundamental dynamics could push the price higher in the future.