Mumbai: Gold imports by India, the biggest consumer of bullion, may have reached about 700 metric tonnes in 2010, according to the Bombay Bullion Association.

Purchases in 2009 totalled 559 tonnes and imports in the first nine months of last year were 624 tonnes, according to the World Gold Council.

Imports may exceed 750 tonnes in 2010, Ajay Mitra, managing director of the council for India and the Middle East, said on November 17.

Gold climbed to a record $1,431.25 (Dh5256.84) an ounce on December 7 and rallied 30 per cent last year for a 10th straight annual gain on demand for a protection of wealth.

Record prices failed to deter consumers in India with demand for jewellery increasing 73 per cent in the nine months ended September, according to the council. Gold is a traditional repository of wealth in Indian society and its demand is fuelled by its special significance in festive occasions and marriages.

Imports in December likely totalled 25 tonnes to 29 tonnes, little changed from a year ago, Prithviraj Kothari, president of the Bombay Bullion Association, said yesterday, citing provisional data.

Immediate-delivery gold was down 0.2 per cent to $1,418 an ounce at 10:49 am in Mumbai yesterday.