India’s Q1 demand for gold grew 37% to 140 tonnes compared to Q1 2020 (102 tonnes) buoyed by factors such as lower gold prices and the countrywide vaccination drive, according to the World Gold Council’s (WGC’s) latest Gold Demand Trends report.

During January to March 2021, total gold jewellery demand in India was up by 39% at 102.5 tonnes as compared to Q1 2020 (73.9 tonnes) driven by wedding purchases, declining gold prices, and improving consumer sentiment supported by continued economic recovery, WGC added.

Somasundaram PR, Managing Director, India, WGC, said: “India’s Q1 2021 gold demand rose 37% to 140 tonnes on the back of Covid containment and positive sentiment following the start of the vaccination programme. It presented a glimpse of gold’s underlying strength of resurgence when we learn to live with a well and truly tamed Covid.

“A combination of softening gold prices, buoying consumer sentiment following sharp pick-up in economic activity and return of social activities like weddings supported a 39% growth year-on-year in gold jewellery demand at 102.5 tonnes. The average domestic gold price of Rs.47,131/10gm was 14% higher year-on-year but 6% lower quarter-on-quarter and significantly, 16% lower than the August 2020 peak Rs.56,000/10gm. (The) slide in prices below Rs.50,000/10gm removed a psychological barrier for the consumers and spurred bargain buying and wedding-related accumulation, releasing pent-up demand.”

India’s total gold investment demand for Q1 2021 increased by 34% to 37.5 tonnes in comparison with Q1 2020 (28.1 tonnes).

Somasundaram added, “Indian retail gold investment demand also improved for a third consecutive quarter. Bar and coin demand grew 34% year-on-year to 37.5 tonnes – the strongest first quarter in India since 2015. Investment benefited from factors similar to those supporting jewellery demand: a lower domestic gold price coupled with improving economic indicators.

“A reduction in customs duty on gold, together with an appreciating rupee throughout much of the quarter, helped lower Indian rupee prices and presented significant buying opportunities for retail investors. Small bars (of 50g and 100g denominations) were reportedly hugely popular in Q1. Official imports of gold surged during the quarter – jumping to a record high of 301 tonnes. Robust consumer demand, combined with stock building among the trade ahead of key festivals (including Akshaya Tritiya in May), were the primary drivers of the strong rise in imports. Meanwhile recycling fell by 20% to a mere 14.8 tonnes in the first quarter.”

Total gold recycled in India in Q1 2021 was 14.8 tonnes, as compared to 18.5 tonnes in Q1 2020, a drop of 20%. Net bullion imports in India in Q1 2021 was 301 tonnes, as compared to 83.1 tonnes in Q1 2020, an increase of 262%.

“The outlook for the coming quarter is, however, cautious. As lockdowns are re-imposed in various regions of the country in response to rising Covid-19 cases, consumer confidence has dipped. This is likely to impact wedding demand in Q2 2021. Digital and omni-channel retail strategies developed over the last year by many players may cushion the drop unlike Q2 2020 but the current crisis is beyond just economics and logistics, therefore, sentiment may be affected till large scale vaccination is achieved. We are unable to quantify the impact on full year gold demand as we do not have sight of several critical factors currently at play.”