(February 2008) In the first nine months of 2007 Italy exported almost 3 and a half million tons of marble and granite, including raw materials, semi-finished and finished products to the tune of one billion 425 million euros, but recorded a negative 5.3 % in terms of volume and a positive 2.7 % in terms of value compared to the same period in 2006.
This information is given by the Internazionale Marmi e Macchine Carrara which, as always, processes the data collected by Istat, emphasising that if the most important items alone are considered (excluding therefore chips, powders, slates and pumice stone) the general outcome is much better, becomes positive in terms of volume and is around 0.5 % higher in terms of value.
There is a particularly positive trend for marble and travertine varieties including raw materials, semi-finished and finished products, while granite exports are not looking so healthy. Exports of finished stones (especially porphyry) are rising too and have actually overtaken granite block exports in terms of value.
Finished marble products, with exports of 786.421 tons (+6,90 %) for a value of 583.858.788 Euro (+7,69 %), are the most important item for Italian stone exports and, together with exports of blocks and raw slabs, represent the strong point of the Italian stone industry ahead of granite exports. In actual fact, according to the IMM’s research office, if the volume for finished marble is traced back to the raw materials, the total amounts to over 2 million tons, over 720 million Euro, while the same calculation for granite reduces the value to around 608 million Euro.
On the other hand, there is a steep decline in the volume for chips and powders (products with a low added value) which however make a decisive contribution to the negative exports balance.
Again in the first months of 2007 Italian exports went mostly to the European Union, which is still the major market, especially for finished products; the trend is positive for all values yet negative for granite volumes which further confirms that the market for Italian products is the high quality bracket.
With regard to current trends it is necessary to make a few considerations about the effects of the strong Euro, the consequences of which are not easy to assess since if a strong Euro makes our goods more expensive abroad, those who choose to buy Italian products despite the competition do so because of the obvious difference in quality of Italian products which is an undisputed value. This is the „problem“ for Italian companies, i.e., they are positioned with high quality products at the high end of the market and have to offer a valid competitive solution to the global market.
Overall, exports to the EU are increasing in terms of value and decreasing slightly in terms of quantity while exports outside the EU are increasing both in terms of volume and value thanks to finished products.
Exports to Africa are increasing, especially in the Mediterranean area, as well as to central and southern America, albeit to a lesser extent.
There are some contradictions in the Middle East and Far East: in the former there is an increase in the average export value (high quality) but not in volume which confirms the general trend while in the Far East there is a significant increase in the quantity of Italian marble imported, both finished products and, mostly, raw materials and semi-finished products.
North America requires a separate consideration since building and renovation work have been on the decline for some time now and this has consequently affected the stone industry too. The US real estate market has also been stagnant for some time too (as already mentioned last May in the IMM’s annual report, Stone Sector) and is now encumbered by the long electoral campaign which has just begun; over the last few months there has been a further slowdown in the building industry and the experts maintain that the market will continue to be unstable or even decline further up until the presidential elections. Exports on the US market in the first nine months of 2007 are clearly negative, with the only exception of finished marble products.
The strength of the Euro does not help to sustain Italy’s competitiveness with new countries, despite the fact that Italy has been following new strategies to „dominate“ the US market for some time now. Moreover the statistics shown in our tables are taken from customs figures and cannot take into consideration supplies based on work carried out abroad (still controlled and managed by Italian companies) to integrate work carried out directly in Italy. Exports to the US market have increased in terms of the average unit value not only thanks to the strength of the Euro but also thanks to the quality of products made in Italy.
Imports follow market requirements (at home and abroad), again with the help of the strength of the Euro, with 2.476.756 tons imported (+ 6,53 %) for a value of 469.717.612 Euro. The volume of imports is growing more than their value with the only exception of finished marble products which however is not a very significant figure in the overall picture. The Far East is the most significant area for Italian imports, with countries such as India and China holding a strong and increasingly important role.