ISTANBUL, TURKEY - The Istanbul Mineral Exporters Association is planning to make its presence felt in the North American marketplace, as it will exhibit at the Coverings exposition from March 23 to 26 in Orlando, FL, with its 27 companies.

The Istanbul Mineral Exporters Association is organizing activities to help its members increase national exports in all related fields, including building stone. Its duties include organizing and supervising export activities of member firms; assisting in international relations; preparing publications to keep member firms informed; conducting research as needed; organizing conferences and courses to inform exporters about improvements; and managing the participating in international and domestic fairs, exhibitions and conferences.

“The U.S. is our primary market. In the past we have done business with large merchandising companies, which are very important for us,” said Ali Kahyaoglu, the chairman of the board of Istanbul Mineral Exporters' Association. “However, in my opinion, now it is time for us to create our own regional brand. If we create a new brand out of Turkish marble, we can earn higher profits from the U.S. market for years. For this reason, we need to increase our business with mid-size dealers and project offices. And we will start this process with [the Coverings exposition.]”

Kahyaoglu said that growth within the Turkish natural stone industry, combined with the international financial climate, have made the timing right for such an initiative. “Fifteen years ago, the total export from Turkey to the U.S. was $3 million dollars,” he said. “At that time, as one of the first exporters, we could not even imagine the point we are at now. However, the market economics and competition of today forces us into a hard race with Italy and Spain. Because our members use their price policies as a primary competition factor, the demand for marble produced in our country slows down. Whereas a resistant price policy results in increased profit and demand. Only if we can achieve this, Turkish marble would be a requested good or a trend. Moreover, we are founding an institution in which we will train technical personnel and specialists with global standards. Our government seriously supports us about this issue.

“In Turkey, marble and other natural stone sectors had a major development in the last decade,” Kahyaoglu continued. “Turkey had its place as one of the most important marble and natural stone production centers of the world - with its rich marble reserves and improving marble processing industry. Investments made by large companies and modern production techniques accelerated this development.”

In the future, the association sees exports continuing to increase. “The natural stone export rate of Turkey is constantly increasing,” Kahyaoglu said. “Along with Italy and Spain - which are our traditional markets - the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel are our new export markets. The U.S., in particular, is economically one of the strongest countries of the world, [but] has very little natural stone consumption per person. For this reason, its importance as a natural stone market is increasing.”