India's net gold import for domestic consumption is likely to be about 800 tonnes this year following a pick-up in demand during the festive season, according to the World Gold Council (WGC).
Last year, the net import for domestic consumption was 969 tonnes.
"The first two quarters the demand was not that great following economic downturn, monsoon deficit, duty issues and jewellers strike, high prices. However, it picked up last month in the festival season and this year we expect the gold demand to be around 800 tonne," WGC Director (Investment) Amresh Acharya told PTI.
2011, he said, was an extraordinary year and the demand was very high and so were the imports. In the long run, he said, the demand for the precious metal remains strong.
Talking about China, he said, even as the demand during quarter three was weak, it is picking up. Quarter four in China is usually strong due to festival season.
"By the end of this year, we still hope that China may still become the largest importer of the yellow metal overtaking India by a whisker," Mr Acharya said.
India is just 20 tonne ahead of China at present.
China is not only becoming one of the largest consumers, but also is one of the major producers. "The jewellery demand in China is very high, driving the imports," WGC Director, Investment, Stephen Richardson said.
Jewellery is the largest growth driver for the yellow metal. However, with increasing awareness, gold electronic traded fund (ETF) is gaining ground globally, he said.
"The investment is catching up in the matured markets and will become one of the major growth drivers for gold in future," he added. However, in India and China, even as ETF is gaining, it is a low start, he said.
"In both the markets, ETF is not very high. There is a need for more awareness and the market to become sophisticated for the ETF to gain more grounds."
The investment demand in India for January to September 2012 stood at 207.3 tonne (Rs 58,725.1 crore).