22 June, 2021.
Russell Santon, Swannington Pty, Australia
Business is more or less operating normally. Companies have now got used to the increased ocean freight rates from Asia and, in particular, China.These have levelled off at approximately double the pre-pandemic peak season rates- not as bad as some countries have had to deal with, and while not palatable, they are at least manageable.
The big news in Australia has been the release of the latest report on silicosis in the stone industry, with 18 - 21 percent of tested workers showing some degree of silicosis - due to bad practices of dry cutting and grinding in the trade. There are at least two large and aggressive nationally operating law firms now promoting their services to affected workers, and talk of class action suits against the quartz distributors. Others are pushing for a total ban within three years, and this seems quite possible, especially if new regulations and procedures do not drastically reduce new cases. So most of the news is in the artificial stone sector.
Natural stone is very likely to benefit from all the bad press, but it will still take time for alternative materials to replace engineered quartz in large size projects, where installation is often one to two years from specification.
21 June, 2021.
Anna Ivanova, Stone Wealth Management, Russia
Due to the pandemic in Russia the labour cost has increased a lot because of shortage of people. In the construction industry traditionally there have been many workers from the ex- Soviet Union and during the last one and a half years they have not been able to enter the Russian Federation. It has become very difficult to maintain the prices and not raise them for the end customer. The problems of restrictions in travel have also created problems when it comes to inviting foreign supervisors and those who take measurements in projects, previously the foreign suppliers would always send them to the project site. As for working with companies from China and India there is now uncertainty in production schedules and deliveries from there and also the costs.
18 June, 2021.
Joseph Anthony Miceli, Officine Marchetti, Italy
Requests for Tie Rods - for marble cutting rose 15% in the first 6 months, and this is a strong sign of recovery in the stone industry. The purchases were made by large and small companies which are certainly preparing to start working at full capacity. The most active countries have been Spain, Egypt, Iran and Italy. In Carrara we are starting to see foreigners from European countries visiting companies once again. Among the entrepreneurs all are preparing for the next fairs for participation, in particular the Verona Fair.
10 June, 2021.
C.Kaliannan, Metal Management, India
Regarding the Indian granite industry it is still facing a shortage of containers for shipping. The monument industry us doing extremely well nowadays. The slabs and tiles factories have good orders too but availability of containers is a huge problem and it’s cost has almost tripled compared to the pre-pandemic period. The blocks exporters also have enough orders but transport issues is also hitting them. For now no one is interested in new machines or ventures, it is a wait and see approach. The lockdown is slowly being lifted but the big question now is availability of immigrant labour in the quarries and factories, they often come from other parts of the country.Most of the quarries have problems of getting leases due to Government policy changes.
25 May, 2021.
Hans Rasmusson, Hallindens Granit, Sweden
The market is still very strong in the building sector. The demand for stone products is very good, both for exteriors where domestic granite/limestone/marble is often used, and also for interiors. Due to the pandemic, which has caused some difficulties for selection of overseas materials and the increase of freight cost, the interest in Scandinavain/Nordic Materials has grown in the monumental sector, both in North and East European markets.
16 May, 2021.
Emerson Schwartzkopf, Stone Update, USA
U.S. market demand for all hard surfaces (natural stone, quartz slab and porcelain) remains strong. Demand is driven almost exclusively by residential remodeling and new-residences. Multifamily residential and commercial markets are mainly in limbo due to continued COVID-19 caution.
A lack of transoceanic capacity and higher shipping costs may slow growth with all hard-surface imports and reduce natural stone use. U.S. production of quartz-slab and porcelain are expanding capacity to partially reduce any shortfall in imports.
Evidence of market change: 2021 first-quarter imports of all dimensional natural stone total $497.2 million, down 9.9% from same time in 2017. Quartz-slab 1Q 2021 shipments of $375.9 million are up 77.5% in same time frame.
4 May, 2021
Dariusz Dude, Focus Stone, Poland
Business is good. There is enough work for everyone in the stone industry. Housing prices in Poland are increasing very fast, with people buying homes due to tax advantages. In the luxury homes marble and granite is mostly used. Porcelain is now being produced in Poland, there are now 2 factories in the country. The prices of these companies are cheaper than elsewhere, and a price war has started in porcelain. Number of projects in Poland are increasing. Brazilian stones are becoming more popular. Indian stones seem to be less in demand except for in the monuments sector. The purchasing power of Polish society is increasing steadily and this is good for the stone industry.
1 May, 2021
N. Mahesh, Devinarayan Granites, India
The situation of the stone Industry in India was indeed promising a month ago but currently the situation has taken a retro-effect due to the severity of the pandemic. The fast spreading pandemic has created fear and labour migration is taking place once again. There are huge pending orders for Indian stone companies but with delays in execution. The high costs of shipping have created a challenging situation.
27 April, 2021
Karl Dusek, Kamen Engineering, Czech Republic
There is a building boom in the country and all stone companies are full of orders. Housing prices are increasing all the time. It is a very positive environment. Regarding stones, Travertine is in fashion among architects for facades and interiors. Quartzite is also in fashion. A wide variety of limestones, marble are also finding a market.
16 April, 2021
Rajesh Jain, Madhav Marbles & Granites, India
Currently demand of south Indian granites both from Europe and USA is high. Executing the orders on time is a challenge for the factories due to the delayed turnaround of the block buying process i.e from the time of giving advance deposits, block inspection and transporting the blocks from the quarries. Currently this turnaround is at least 60 days for fast moving colours. This is mainly due to the unprofessional trade practices adopted by the quarry owners due to which the authorities annoyingly keep changing the parameters/rules. Once the goods are ready no one wants to delay the shipment, but the current shipping issues are adding insult to the injury. Customers around the world must have a holistic approach towards manufacturers/processors.
9 April, 2021
Oktay Gümüsdere, Elbe Naturstein, Germany
The situation in Germany is, of course, a little more difficult than normal, but the construction industry is one of the few sectors that is only affected by the pandemic to a limited extent. The only positive thing we have learned from this is that the innovative companies have continued to increase their market share.
That is why we have also made new investments in technological development, digitization and modernization in the natural stone industry and have shown that this is also possible in traditional industries, and we are making our contribution to making natural stone projects BIM (Building Information Modeling) - capable.
6 April, 2021
Paulo Giafarov, DGG Stones, Brazil
By the end of the last year all of us had thought that the worst was over regarding the pandemic. However, in April 2021 we now find there is a most transmissible variant and this is very much affecting the Brazilian production once more as more and more people are getting infected. The construction sector in Brazil actually had a strong growth last year due to the low interest rates offered by the banks and it is still moving well. But there are some political issues that might lead to a slowdown: the uncertainty created by the Presidential elections, which are due in 2022. And this could affect the demand for natural stones and other products as well.
Some stone companies are changing their polishing lines and/or multi diamond wire machines. Most of the big Brazilian companies have realized the crucial element that to be competitive they have to structure the production in the quarries in a proper way. Therefore, there are many new equipments being ordered for the quarries. The big companies have understood that the renewal of machinery is necessary to reduce their production costs.
Jeffrey Matthews, Trade Intl, USA
Residential remodeling is very strong, new home sales are down a little, and commercial building projects for the next year is at a crawl. Marble is on the increase in demand in general, Chinese imports are very far down, problems with shipping is a major concern as there is a shortage of containers coming to the USA, ports are jammed full and slow to unload, cost of shipping from Europe to USA has gone us this year twice and is now about a 1000 dollars more per container this year and may rise more. The increases in engineered stone are outperforming the increases in natural stone.
March 18, 2021
Rogerio Moutinho, MGLW, UK
Business is picking up now. But the severe lockdown has affected it in many ways. Transport of supplies is a real problem. Not just high shipping costs, but also supplies from the continent have their problems: more paperwork and hassles now that UK is out of the EU, and also higher transport costs apart from availability. The terrazo look is more in demand.
March 11, 2021
Claude Gargi, Pierre Actual, France
For the moment the stone industry in France and the market has not really been impacted by the crisis. The companies have not needed a lot of financial help from the State. The private stone decoration market is good. The high price of maritime transport for containers coming from Asia and the problem of availability of containers actually benefits the French stone industry. The problem for the future is whether there will be public money for urban jobs and construction of offices buildings because teleworking is now a rule. But for the moment all the lights are green.
Keshav Kumar, S.K. Stone Products & Services Pvt Ltd, India
The Indian Stone Industry is slowly recovering from the negative growth of last year. While export of raw blocks to China is up, finished goods exports have increased though not to pre covid levels. The rise in shipping costs and shortage of containers are adding to the misery! The domestic market for home improvement has gone up which means more sales in the domestic market. New construction has started to revive very slowly.
Kai Niepel, Pierre & Boiss Srl, France
Obviously, with all the restrictions caused by the pandemic, our professional life has been impacted quite heavily. In the first phase - less orders, less production, less sales. Mainly due to the fact of not having been able to travel with the usual ease, to hold technical and commercial meetings. But we have adapted very well to this situation replacing them by on-line meetings - certainly less friendly, but just as effective as our usual visits.
This sometimes leads us to question whether there is a real need to always take the plane and create the carbon footprint we are leaving behind.
The economic situation of the markets in which we are active, mainly Northern Europe, has, after a short period of regression, recovered very well. Generally speaking, there is a strong demand, it is more that we are rather hampered by all the alternative products which have been able to copy natural stone so well, without the disadvantages.