After enjoying solid growth over the past few years, the 15th edition of the International Fair of Marble and Granite is taking a major step by moving to Vitoria, the capital city of the State of Espirito Santo, the largest Brazilian producer of ornamental stones. The show had previously been located in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, Espirito Santo, Brazil, which will now host a more localized version of the event later in the year.

The fair, which will take place from February 19 to 22, expects an even greater international flavor. In addition to drawing more foreign attendees, the show features a collaboration effort with the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE) of Italy, which has established a large area of Italian manufacturers.

Of course, Brazilian suppliers will also carry a high profile at the event, as many of the largest producers and retailers of stone from the State of Espirito Santo have booked exhibit space, some of them for the first time.

Show organizers Milanez & Milaneze as well as promoters Sindirochas and Cetemag predict that the move to Vitoria will result in a record number of visitors, particularly foreign attendees, as compared to previous editions.

But the great expectations of the fair are also due to other reasons. The stone industry of Brazil and Espirito Santo has undergone continual investment and expansion, and the region of Vitoria has become a hub for this activity on an international level. Shipping companies, custom agencies, forwarders, bonded warehouses and port authorities are using the trade fair as an opportunity to show the logistics facilities of the state, which is regarded as one of the best of Brazil for its export potential. In fact, the harbors of Espirito Santo exported an average 50% of the national production of raw marble and granite and more than 60% of production of finished material. These ports have all the necessary handling facilities for stone blocks and slabs.

Acknowledging this potential, the Promotion and Export Agency (Apex), will bring a group of international buyers of marble and granite to the port during the trade fair to showcase the potential. This initiative is part of "Project Purchase," which has already been developed by Apex in other business sectors.

Increased fabrication potential

The increased investment in stoneworking technology by Brazilian firms - many of whom have imported state-of-the-art equipment from Italy - has been ongoing for over a decade. And with this machinery currently in place, Brazilian fabricators have significantly increased their production of processed stone, giving added value to the national production. Nowadays, processed stones represent 25.4% of Brazil's total exports in terms of weight and 56% in value.

On the basis of the last three years, the specialists predict an annual growth of 15% in value through 2006, with 25,000 new jobs in the stone sector over that period.

And despite its relatively small size, the State of Esp¿to Santo is responsible for 46% of the total Brazilian production of marble and granite, and it is home to 34% of the registered nation's quarries.

Of the 1,500 gangsaws operating in Brazil, 910 are located in Espirito Santo, and the number is increasing every year, stimulated by a healthy local economy. This is mostly due to its infrastructures and its ports, which are among the largest in Latin America.

For more information on the 15th edition of the International Fair of Marble and Granite in Vitoria, Brazil, visit the Milanez & Milaneze Web site at: