Stone Sector 2015 preview

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wed 1 JULY 2015
22.8 billion euro in terms of world trade value for stone.  Preview of the annual publication by Internazionale Marmi e Macchine with statistics, report and outlook for the Italian and international stone industry. 9 July, conference for the presentation and distribution of the report.

In 2014, world economic activity grew by 3.4% compared to 2013, reflecting a modest recovery in advanced economies that partly compensated a slowdown in emerging markets. Growth was sustained by various factors including the drop in oil prices, the significant increase in consumption and investments in the USA and a number of initiatives concerning monetary policy in the Euro area, culminating in the announcement of the Quantitative Easing plan in January 2015.In line with the world economy, the construction industry grew by around 3% compared to 2013. Further, finally after seven years of deep recession, building activity in the Euro area showed the first slight turnaround driven by countries in central-northern Europe and the UK.  Italy too showed the first positive signs that concern, however, above all the big cities and the renovation, maintenance and upgrading of residential property. Just a short preview of the data given in Stone Sector 2015 that, as every year, the IMM study office writes and distributes. Other data includes the international trade of stone products. In the year 2014, this reached a value of 22.8 billion euro, an increase compared to 2013 of 1.8% and a total quantity handled of about 86 million tons (+7.4% compared to 2013). The first country in terms of the demand for imports was China, which imported 14.7 million tons of stone materials worth 2.2 billion (+4% in quantity and +2.5% in value compared to 2013). The second largest market was the United States that, in 2014, imported stone materials for a total value of almost 2 billion euro, recording a 5% increase compared to 2013. Finally, the first signs of a recovery were seen on the European market. In 2014, the countries of the European Union imported stone materials from the rest of the world for a total value of 2.3 billion euro, recording a slight increase of 0.3% compared to 2013, but still remaining below 2012 values when imports stood at almost 2.6 billion.These years of crisis that have marked the world economy since 2008 to date have not slowed down this growth trend but have led the stone industry to rethink itself, requiring new strategies in envisaging new balances for the future. On this issue, certain reflections have to be made that necessarily involve the leading countries in the sector, since the strategies put in place by them, even in the face of new markets, form the future of the world stone industry.  China remains the major player in the industry, the first country for imports and exports of stone materials with a turnover for the year 2014 of 6.8 billion euro, an increase compared to 2013 of 4.6%. However, China is also going through a period of transition and is developing a new model of growth that is less export-oriented and more attentive to quality and sustainability. Italy is the second country in terms of market share and accounts for 13.5% of total exports. The Italian stone industry is gradually moving into niche markets that require products with higher added value and of very high quality. The leading item of Italian exports of natural stone is in fact finished marble products. This category showed a 3.5% decline per ton exported, yet with an increase in value of 3.8%.Turkey, among many others, deserves a special mention. Currently, Turkey is the third country in terms of market share (12.1% in 2014). The reduced demand for blocks of marble by China, the leading trading partner for Turkey, has had a strong impact on the national stone industry causing layoffs in many quarries. Since no recovery is expected in Chinese demand for 2015, Turkey must also act quickly to move their production to other markets. In general, the prevailing trend in natural stone seems to be a move from a perspective of a global value chain, in which some countries further upstream provide raw materials and semi-finished products for the production of finished products with a higher added value to other countries further downstream, to a perspective of a short chain, which is eco-sustainable, with a high added value and low environmental impact throughout the products’ entire life cycle.However, a global type of mentality must continue for issues related to distribution, calibrating the marketing strategy on different types of customers and offering after-sales services (eg. laying of materials or maintenance). This is essential today in order to remain competitive.These and other issues will be looked at in depth during the presentation of the report “Stone Sector 2015. Annual Report and Prospects for the International Stone Trade” due to be held on Tuesday 7 July at 10:00 in the Marble Library at the Internazionale Marmi e Macchine. 

Manuela Gussoni