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Sizing up the world stone market

August 1, 2007
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As usual, the CarraraMarmotec trade fair included some interesting stone industry analyses when it took place in Carrara, Italy, a couple of months ago. Among them, the show’s organizer, Internazionale Marmi e Macchine, presented the “Stone Sector,” an annual statistical handbook on world production, consumption and trade of natural stone.
In 2006, world production of stone exceeded 100 million tons. In this account, it was reported that China and India led in terms of production, but that Italy exports finished products of a higher value. China led the pace with production of 21 million tons, followed by India, which was closing the gap at 19 million tons. Italy paced third, with annual production of 11 million tons, closely followed by Iran and Turkey, whose totals were also near 11 million tons.
Rounding out the top seven, Spain remained stable at almost 9 million tons, while Brazil experienced a strong increase, ranking number seven in the world tables with 7.5 million tons produced in 2007.
When looking at these figures from an American perspective (and comparing them to the U.S. stone import statistics for 2006), the report that was released in Carrara essentially confirms several trends that have been in place for some time now, particularly in the granite sector. Please note that the U.S. stone import statistics do not include insurance or freight:

· China and India are among the leading stone exporters to the U.S. in terms of tonnage (ranking at two and three, respectively), although the cost of the granite being imported into the U.S. from these countries is relatively low. China exported nearly 495,000 tons of granite to the U.S. in 2006, with a value of nearly $280.2 million (approximately $566/ton). India exported just over 600,000 tons of granite to the U.S. in 2006, with a value of 220.3 million (approximately $367/ton).
· Although Italy exported just under 325,000 tons of granite to the U.S. in 2006 -- less than the totals imported from China or India -- the overall value of $308.4 million was greater than both countries. Moreover, the per-ton average of $949 was significantly higher than either China or India.
· While only ranked seven in the world market overall, Brazil has become far and away the leading exporter of granite to the U.S. -- in terms of volume as well as value. In 2006, Brazil exported nearly 977,000 tons of granite to the U.S., carrying a value of $538.2 million. Perhaps surprisingly, the average cost of granite being imported from Brazil amounts to $551/ton, which is higher than granite from India but very similar to the cost for Chinese granite.

There are several explanations for these figures. Obviously, the level of value-added stone products being exported from Italy remains the highest in the world. At any given time, a brief tour of the stoneworking regions of Carrara and Verona (among others in Italy) shows that Italian stone producers are continually developing new innovations in the sector -- developments that international clients are willing to pay for.
Meanwhile, the relatively low per-ton cost of Indian granite is likely due to the fact that many producers are exporting large amounts of material in a less-expensive tile format, as opposed to cut-to-size work and slabs. However, a number of slab and cut-to-size producers in India are also targeting the U.S. marketplace, and the stoneworking plants and finished projects of several Indian firms can be found in this issue's "Focus on Stone from India" (pages 60 to 86).
All the statistics published in "Stone Sector 2006" may be consulted on line at www.immcarrara.com. In order to simplify the work of companies and researchers, a search engine -- www.isicentry.com -- has been created to trace all the data available on the stone industry on the Internet and in the IMM data banks.

Michael Reis, Editor/Associate Publisher

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