Markets: Good turnover despite financial crisis

Granite Golden Dream from Dacaza.(March 2009) A positive surprise was taken away with the Brazilian trade fair in Vitória from February 10th to 13th: almost all the exhibitors interviewed were pleased with the outcome. Business is „satisfactory“ or even „exceptionally good“ according to the comments given. Surprising in view of the worldwide crisis. „People came not only to look but also to buy“, was one often heart comment.

There were hardly any visitors from the USA, at least no buyers; the number of exhibitors, too, had decreased. „20 % less visitors“ as Cecília Milanez Milaneze of the fair operator had to admit.

Before turning to the numbers surrounding Brazilian stone export, let us have a look at an annual – thus normal – particularity of the Vitória trade fair: a great number of new stones were presented, magnificent, each and ever one, which, after having been tested last year, are now appearing on the market. In many cases the presentations make a regular artwork of the product – many an exhibitor had taken the trouble of presenting the slabs as an open book. Here is a selection of new appearances.

Now to the export figures. Brazil’s stone export industry experienced a sharp drop in exports in 2008: turnover was 13.7 % lower than the previous year or 21 % lower in mass according to the national association Abirochas in its newsletter informe 3/2009 (pdf in Portuguese). This corresponds to just under 955 million USD or almost 2 million tons in absolute figures.

Compared to the 2007 figures: Brazil had just broken the magic billion mark with turnover of 1.1 billion $ and exported 25 % more mass (2.5 million t).

Despite the fact that some positive aspects can be interpreted from the figures published in Informe, e.g. that Brazil no longer only exports granite but increasingly slate or carbonate stones, or that the average price for stone has increased, Brazil nevertheless seems stuck in a dangerous monoculture in two ways.

First, 80 % of the processed products are sold but to one country, namely the USA, followed by other countries far behind. And second, export of natural stone blocks is also directed at essentially one country, namely China, with other countries trailing behind here, too.

China is developing to a dangerous competitor in Brazil’s most important market: the USA, and is even competing even in the domestic market of Brazil in the upper league, so the national association Abirochas.

Brazil’s contingency plan is to on concentrate export to the Gulf States according to both Abirochas publications and the state run organisation for the advancement of export, Apex. Domestic turnover is a second focus of attention. Some provincial trade associations are concentrating on Central American markets.
Abirochas absent

On the down side, a comment on the negative surprises of this trade fair is in order here: the national trade fair Abirochas was absent. Take a moment to comprehend the enormity of this void: the most important stone trade fair of all Latin America takes place and the national trade association of the host country is not represented!

The reason being an age-old feud between the national trade association and the trade association of the state of Espírito Santo, Sindirochas. Espírito Santo plays a singularly important role in the stone industry and the feud is about funding, namely what percentage of national funding for export goes to which association.

Photos: Companies