Over the past few weeks, a hard-working editor on the Stone World staff took quite a bit of time to compile the year-end stone import and export statistics that are recorded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. To my mild surprise - and contrary to what I’ve been hearing from many stone suppliers - the total was not “zero.”
In actuality, the grand total was a bit more than that, as U.S. imports of granite, marble, slate and other materials amounted to $2.262 billion in 2008. While this marked a 18.06% decline from 2007’s overall import total of $2.761 billion - which was an all-time high - I expected the drop-off to be greater than that. (I should note this expectation didn’t come from perusing the monthly statistics that we publish in each issue of Stone World; rather, it was based on the seemingly endless stream of “gloom and doom” stories I have been hearing on the street and in the news.)
To be fair, the first half of 2008 started off much better than the second half, so looking at a year-long snapshot of the industry imports does not adequately illustrate how tough a year it was. Moreover, we all know that the statistics for the first few months (or more) in 2009 will be ugly, but our industry hasn’t completely collapsed just yet.
From an historical perspective, 2008’s U.S. stone import total falls a few percentage points short of 2005’s figure, which was $2.351 billion. Looking at specific exporting nations and categories, the following figures stand out:
• The value of granite imports to the U.S. dropped from $1.447 billion in 2007 to $1.148 billion in 2008 - a decline of 20.7%. Among leading granite-exporting nations, Brazil’s granite export total to the U.S. declined from $555.1 million to $422.5 million; Italy dropped from $268.6 million to $203.1 million; China dropped from $298.1 million to $267.5 million; and India dropped from $204.1 million to $169.9 million.
• The value of marble imports to the U.S. (including limestone, travertine and other calcareous stone) dropped from $1.126 billion in 2007 to $950.8 million in 2008 - a drop of 15.6%. Among leading marble-exporting nations, Turkey’s marble export total to the U.S. declined from $415.9 million to $327.1 million; Italy dropped from $178.6 million to $163.9 million; Mexico dropped from $128.5 million to $91.1 million; and China dropped from $106.9 million to $102.5 million.
A full statistical report on U.S. stone imports and exports can be found on pages 28 to 34 of this issue. This includes all U.S. stone imports and exports from 2007 and 2008, with figures on granite, marble, slate and materials classified as “other,” such as dolomite, sandstone, porphyry and other non-specific materials.
The numbers are not pretty, obviously, but if you check out the report, I promise that you won’t be looking at endless rows of zeroes.