Drop in international trade

The crisis affecting the major economies is hitting the stone industry hard. According to the organisation "Internazionale Marmi e Macchine Carrara" (IMM) the declared international exports of stone materials, raw and processed materials counted as raw (including marble and granite from all over the world) have decreased from 48 million 600 thousand tons in 2007 to 43 million 126 thousand tons in 2009, showing a percentage drop of 11,3 % in 2009 on 2007.

The complete statistics tables published in the "Stone Sector" 2009 by Internazionale Marmi e Macchine Carrara that will be presented on Thursday 20 May at CarraraMarmotec show an industry in great difficulty. The overall assessment at the end of 2009 shows a generalised reduction in international trade, with very few exceptions and this is evident from the comparison of 2009 with 2007.

As regards the volume of processed materials taken as raw materials, there is a variation over the two-year period of at least -10,9 %, with general world exports falling from 34 million 600 thousand tons in 2007 to 30 million  800 thousand in 2009.

Raw materials (marble and granite together) show an even higher decrease over the two years, from 14 million tons in 2007 to 12 million 300 thousand tons in 2009, a decrease of 12,2 %.

The statistics analysis conducted by the IMM Carrara combines processed materials with the raw materials so as to give a good approximation of the volume of materials extracted and involved in international trade.  The statistics show that the quantities extracted in the world now exceed 100 million tons and it can be presumed that over 50% of the materials extracted throughout the world are consumed on the domestic markets.

Even in 2009, despite the general crisis in production and use, the domestic markets of the individual countries played a fundamental role since many countries have higher consumption on their own markets than export figures. Countries continued to build using local stones, starting from China that has been dominating the markets in every industry for years now. In terms of the stone industry, China imports raw materials, mostly marble and with a great reduction in granite figures over the last few years.

The "Stone Sector" statistics show how marble and limestones have a more stable market, although the volumes are smaller than for granite, due to their traditional role on the international markets as well as the limited number of valuable deposits. Granites, on the other hand, have different uses and markets and are younger materials in terms of trade.
The international crisis has affected China too, in particular exports of its most important material, granite (especially finished products). In 2009, Chinese exports of processed granite materials to the rest of the world fell in terms of quantity by -5,7%, thus leading to the first negative figure in exports.

South Korea and Japan, the main buyers for the Far Eastern colossal, reduced their imports from China in 2009 by -6, 4% and -10, 3 % respectively, while the USA, which is its most profitable market, reduced its imports by a further -20, 1%. China has been increasing its own imports every year, particularly of raw marble that it purchases above all from Turkey (+9, 1 %), Egypt (+3, 7 %), and Italy (+9, 9 %). In 2009 Chinese imports fell most of all from Iran (-12, 2 %) and Spain (-21, 6 %).

The United States  obviously remains the most carefully observed country in the industry, especially as it imported much lower quantities of finished marble and granite than it did of just finished granite in 2005 – just over 2 million tons, that is a drop of  -32,3% on 2008 and -47,3% on 2007 and less than half the quantity imported in 2006.

In terms of value, in 2009, US processed granite imports amounted to approximately 980 million dollars and the figure had not been seen since 2003.
As regards marble, Turkey, China and Italy were the major suppliers of the US market. All suffered a great reduction over the year but an increase was seen in terms of value.

Italy in particular and Greece too recorded a very high average value in dollars that is rising together with Canada, France and, to a lesser extent, Egypt.
The publication also contains a few very interesting facts about Africa where Egypt stood out for its dynamism, especially in terms of exports to China where its exports of marble alone rose by +3,7 % in volume, mostly of raw materials.
What are even more interesting are the figures for technology from Egypt but also from Italy showing an increasing tendency to carry out processing.  Egyptian imports of secondary cutting and processing machinery grew in particular, and this is important for Italian marble machinery producers.

(19.5.2010, Source: IMM Carrara: www.immcarrara.com)