This BLOG is updated frequently, in the form of comments by stone industry professionals on the current situation in their countries, as they see it on that day. There is too much uncertainty everywhere to go beyond this.
24 July, 2020
Saket Hans, Ohm Int'l, USA
As of now, we are seeing sales levels back to pre-crisis. Personally, I think that it may be just pent up demand. June was like a 'normal' month and July has been 'normally' slow. Will normalcy return completely? I doubt it. With the government grants running out, I think that real shock is going to set in. But yes, with the unexpected sales in the last two months, inventory levels are low and all of us are stocking back up. For now.
17 July, 2020
Tirumala Rao, Sterling Stonex, India
The stone companies are working with great difficulties to fulfill orders. The virus is still spreading and has created a severe shortage of skilled labour in the quarries and factories because they people have gone back to their villages. There is no consistency of supply from the quarries. There are also restrictions in movement of people from one state to another, which makes workers reluctant to return. In transport the problems come from reluctance of drivers to work due to fear of catching the virus.
16 July 2020
Patrick Perus, Polycor, Canada
After 2 months of dramatically reduced activity, especially on the East Coast, the US and Canadian markets are picking up in June. Of course there is some “catch up” in the good numbers we saw recently, but in general, demand for residential renovation is strong, as well as projects related to infrastructure and city improvement. Now the question is : What about 2021 ? It is now quite clear that commercial/office construction will be dead for years to come, as companies will reduce the surface of their offices now that a large chunk of the work force work from home, and like it. If Federal governments are increasing spending to support the economy at large, but local and state governments are heading from a major financial crisis, as revenues dried up. Local projects will come to a stall, and some projects will be delayed, or simply abandoned. 2021 will be a recessionary year. The Industry must take this into account. The crisis may be ahead of us. From past experience, this means reduce capacity and production, and not prices. Demand will not react to lower prices because that is not the issue. Inflation in many countries is already negative.
More than ever, the message about green construction is essential. Stone must be part of the future. In Europe in particular, and I imagine soon in North America, developers and governments will be serious about reducing the carbon footprint of the construction Industry and that will mean in particular use building materials that have a low carbon footprint. That is the definition of Natural Stone. It is by nature the most sustainable construction material available. Yet, the most active Industry today in promoting “Green Material” is concrete. It is like having Mac Donalds promoting healthy eating. It is just not right and honestly 90% BS. We are the real deal. A thousand little voices is more efficient than a big well-funded one. So tell your friends, your family, and of course your customers, through social network and every time you have an opportunity that Natural Stone is the future of construction. This is how we will recover from this crisis eventually.
14 July, 2020
Rogerio Moutinho, MGLW, UK
The lockdown from around March to May meant there was very little business activity. In June, with the restrictions eased since there was a lot of pent up demand, stone companies were busy. July is also being a good month. Projects that were already in the pipeline will continue, so that should take care of this year for most of the industry. Some companies even have orders till 2021. But London is heavily dependant on tourism and this industry has been badly affected, so there will be less commercial work in future.
5 July, 2020
Tuncay Ozay, MarbleOz, Turkey
Back in April and in May, while most of the countries were fully or semi locked-down, there were discussions on how the pandemic would impact the natural stone industry overall. Now that the first 5 months of natural stone export statistics of Turkey are published, I wanted to check the COVID-19 effect comparing the monthly changes with the year before. And here is my summary;
Turkey had a very good start in processed marble & travertine for the first 3 months (Jan-March 2020) compared to 2019 which was doing overall 25% better. However, the impact in April was 25% less and in May almost 50% less. If we look cumulative the first 5 months, the impact seems to be little, but for sure the impact was more in slowing down the growth. If we look at the country level, 3 major export countries stand out for not being so affected from pandemic impact- Israel , Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the block export. While January statistics of 2020 were showing similar numbers compared to 2019, the following 3 months, February, March and April were showing a substantial decline, 45%, 35%, 36% respectively and a lot bigger decline in May, 64%. Keep in mind that the dominant player is China which accounts for more than 75% of block export from Turkey. The decline, starting in February averaged about 36%. India, which is the 2nd export market on the other hand, had much deeper decline compare to China, accounting for 63% overall decline for the 1st five months and noticeably almost 95% decline in the month of April & May.
As of June 1st, Turkey lifted most of its travel and work restrictions. Being on the road since June 1st, visiting quarries and manufacturers, I have been observing a steady recovery in export activities overall and therefore the following months won’t be as bad as the past ones, for sure.
26 June, 2020
Hans Rasmussen, Hallindens Granit, Sweden
The number of projects, specially public sector ones for pavements and exteriors, is at record levels in Sweden. More and more the specifiers are choosing local stones which is being very good for Swedish quarries. Exports of blocks to Polish market are good and stable in other European markets.
22 June, 2020
Z.Safarikova, Kamen Engineering,Czech Republic
The situation is back to normal in the country. The sandstone quarries are working as before. Construction work is going on in both private and public sector projects. New projects are also expected in the market. There were difficulties in last few months regarding supplies of stone from other countries but that is now no longer an issue.
19 June, 2020
Sourabh Agarwal, Millenium Marbles, India
Our factory in Shoolagiri, Tamil Nadu is geared up and ready to serve the customers of imported marble again.The corona virus scares has led to a slower flow of customers to our factory. We are still witnessing interest from the buyers as these are people who need the material. Some customers are still hesitant to come across the state border and visit our factory to place new orders.
Some of the past orders have not yet been dispatched because the buyers are facing restrictions particular to the area they stay in. Though our sales have seen a reduction in the coming months we are positive that orders will pick up through visits to the factory to select the material.
15 June, 2020
Salvador Moratonas, Marmoles Moratonas, Spain
The crisis will be severe and many companies may not be able to survive. But there will also be stone companies which, depending on the management, its products and the markets where it is present, will recover well and fast enough. In Spain the municipalities do have some margin for manouver and if they launch public sector projects, it will be good for the stone industry.
11 June, 2020
Paulo Giafarov, DGG Stones, Brazil
In the current month of June we are noticing a slow recovery in the market demand. The importers in USA are opening up again and have begun to place new orders. China is also doing the same.
We are observing that in the USA the architects and general contractors are returning to their routine of completing the projects in progress and at the same time new projects are under study to be launched in the short run.
The Brazilian companies started to work under the government rules with the employees using masks, gloves and keeping social distance. Now that the American importers are starting to place orders again the stone people are expecting some sales increases in the next 6 months.
Some weak economies are still under great negative pressure due the Covid-19 but their recovery is also expected the coming months.
At the end of the day 2020 will be a year to be forgot.
5 June, 2020
Claude Gargi, Pierre Actual, France
The return to activity in the stone industry in France is being gradual with companies taking health precautions. When the construction activity, both in private and public sector, stopped completely, many companies believed they had lost 100% of business, others think they will recover it later. Right now the stone companies are working at a good level. The French government has been providing support by way of paying part of salaries and giving loans.
There are a lot of questions now regarding the attitude of consumers after two months of lockdown. Some people may want to invest in a new kitchen or a bathroom and the hope is they will choose French or European materials. In France the natural stone industry depends heavily on public sector spending in urban development. These projects will definitely resume after the lockdown when everything came to a halt. But with local elections still not completed and with the current situation of there being no mayor in many big cities in France many decisions are being held up.
3 June, 2020
Saket Hans, Ohm Int'l, USA
I can speak on my behalf - all our ten locations are open for business, with the new normal of appointments, masks, gloves and sanitization. Right now it seems that there is a lot of pent up demand, due to the closure - unfinished projects. We need to see if the trend continues or tapers off here soon. We are also upon normally vacation time, which this year is different obviously, and I think will not be a normal slow period - people are not going to be spending monies on travel and divert those into home improvements, hopefully!
13 May, 2020
Adriano Antas, Real Granito, Portugal
The Portuguese stone industry is operating but at lower capacity. Granite would be down by around 35%, limestone by approximately 45%, and the extraction in quarries by around 35%. The local market has stayed more or less same levels. A major problem is availability of trucks for exporting stone because of severe restrictions in crossing through Spain and France. Export of blocks to China has come down mostly due to lack of availability of ships for transporting them
8 May, 2020
Tuncay Ozay, MarbleOz, Turkey
In the natural stone industry, depending on the region of Turkey and on the company, each one followed a different path; some completely shut-down their operation until further notice, some slowed down their outputs, and some were affected in a minor way, and continued to work full scale. The ones that continued are the ones that are caught in this pandemic with large projects already in their hands, either domestic and/or international. If we put all of them in one picture, we can state that close to 60% of the factories in Turkey have been working either at full capacity and/or in partial capacity.
The picture is a little different in the quarry side. The month of March is critical for majority of the quarries in Turkey which is regarded as the beginning of a new season. Traditionally in March, they would come out of the winter season and get ready for the Izmir marble fair that is typically held end of March. But most of them delayed the start of the quarry operation, because of the cancellation of the Izmir marble fair and also lack of Chinese visitors which play a significant role for most of the quarries. Despite all the disadvantages, most of the quarries have begun their operation recently but due to Ramadan holy month, working on a slow pace. Regardless, most likely all of them will try to be in full operation after June 1st.
5 May, 2020
Amelia Pastor, Incompastor, Spain
Beyond the fact that all companies will see an unexpected drop in invoicing sales and forced by the situation created due to Covid-19, I think we are still immersed in the process of fulfilling orders that were already there. We do not know whether there will be a crisis of demand, which would be very serious for the sector in these moments, or, on the contrary, we will return soon to the normal demand.
29 April, 2020
Russel Santon, Swannington, Australia
Australia has been relatively fortunate in terms of the effect of the Coronavirus on the Stone Trade.Generally the country has been under Stage 3 lockdowns, so Restaurants, Cafes, Cinemas, Galleries etc have been closed, but both domestic and commercial Building Sites have remained open,and work in progress has continued more or less normally.
In a number of instances Stone imports from China's were delayed due to their slow return to work after the Chinese New Year,but these were mostly limited to February and into early March - and have since mostly caught up.
Of course, only a trickle of imports has come through from Italy in the last months. As Italian stone factories and quarriesare scheduled to come back to work in early May new production will start to become available, but the whole worldwill be waiting for some materials, so delays will likely still extend through May and early June.
As sailing times from Europe to Australian Ports are typically in the order of four (4) weeks, we will have a further mont before new Italian Stone shipments start to arrive. But this has affected only those projects directly relying on new (Italian) stocks,so there has been some disruption but not Industry wide.
Market sentiment is mixed. The last months have seen great uncertainty, as we have never experienced a situation quite like this current one with its far reaching economic implications. Initially there were significant concerns that business would suffer from many months of lockdown, but now it seems Australia will begin to ease social restrictions in the next couple of months - although Overseas Travel and Personal Quarantine provisions will be the last to be addressed, and are expected to stay in place until well into 2021.
Overall, there is an expectation that the next year or two may still be "patchy" as a result of some project development being deferred now. Natural stone, however, seems to be maintaining market share, and certainly retains prestige in up-market residential and commercial applications, so we are (slowly) becoming more confident that we will be able to weather the market conditions in these strange and uncertain times we face.
28 April, 2020
N.Mahesh, Devinarayan Granites, India
While the lockdown in India still continues, the authorities have started giving permission for operating to stone companies who can prove they need to fulfill pending orders. Orders and enquiries are now coming from China and other countries, and self inspection is becoming the norm in cases where the buyer- supplier relationships are well established. Further easing of situation is expected in about 2 weeks.
Barbel Hollander, Naturstein Magazine, Germany
Naturstein Magazine just interviewed (all together) 50 People in the German, Austrian and Swiss stone industries. Here are some tendencies: Stonemasons were able to work off their present jobs, but some are starting to miss new ones. The kitchen studios have been closed, and so no more kitchen tops were ordered. Public building still working, so stonemasons have still been doing floorings and stairs. Also restoration work continued. Jobs for private builders stopped broadly, as many don’t want to have potential danger in their house. Some gravestone masons had and have lots of work, some are starting to feel a decline, because many don’t want to invest right now – a gap which can be closed later in the year. As for wholesalers of stone, the situation hasn’t been too bad. Most had ordered material early in the year, so the stockyards were filled. Still, they expect less turnover for the next weeks, due to their clients not being able to get new work. Also there is and will be some delays, where new shipments and transports of highly demanded materials from other countries are concerned. Producers and dealers of machinery and tools have had good work up to know, but depend on their clients ability to get new work and their willingness to invest. The chemical industry has been most busy. So all together, the situation in the German speaking stone industry hasn’t been dramatic so far. Nevertheless, the crisis is perceived as very serious, and everybody hopes that the economy will soon be able to pick up and move.
13 April, 2020
Ahmed Hamid, Technomarble, Egypt
The Egyptian stone industry is currently working at 40 to 50 % capacity. Most of the production is for the local market. Exports are currently at a minimum levels. Only exports of rough slabs to China are doing well.
7 April, 2020
Giovani Araldi, Santo Antonio Granite, Brazil
It is time to review overhead costs, sales strategies , re-budget , re-think and re-invent our business model . Every sector is facing serious problems affecting our daily business – Brazilian export oriented factories are facing an unprecedented situation – suddenly most orders are on standby or cancelled , some customers are asking to extend payment terms from their suppliers, and ordering only that which is extremely necessary for the builder programs. Unless the U.S. government implements a positive agenda to incentivise and boost the economy and the construction industry, we in Brazil may facing the toughest times. U.S.A. is the main market for Brazilian stones.
In the other hands , new possibilities are coming up to change our sales platform , such as on-line sales inventory , virtual show-room tour , video conferences and social media tools to improving our copy writing , branding , BI data analysis among other technologies to reach out to our audience. This is not the time to complain but to act: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” … or caipirinha! "
6 April, 2020
Anders Leidefalk, Scandinavian Stone, Sweden
No lockdown yet, we are working in the office or, in our case, working in the quarries is OK as long as one does not show any symptoms.
We see a drop in new orders from some markets especially Poland where we have heard cemeteries are closed. Not even work on the monuments is possible which leads our customer to stop production.
But our domestic market, especially for building products, is still quite OK so we deliver stone every week to masonries around Sweden.
Shipments to some export markets in Europe is still taking place but in slower pace.
We have run our quarries so far full time and are open for business. But that said, in this situation we take it week by week and it might be that we may also need to reduce activity.
3 April, 2020
Dariusz Duda, Focus Stone, Poland
While the lockdown is not as total as in south European countries, business activity is reduced, perhaps around 30% of normal. Supplies from other countries is currently a problem so companies are selling from their stocks. Some containers are stuck in the ports because the Polish buyer has not made payment, perhaps waiting to see how the situation develops.
25 March, 2020
Haseena Zaki Chakkiwala, Quality Marble Exports, India
From 25th of March, the Indian stone industry, as every other Indian industry has suspended entire operations owing to Government directives to contain the pandemic. This includes quarry activities, processing facilities, allied logistics, administrative offices. The initial spurt in demand for Indian stones owing to disruption of Chinese supplies was diluted as the target markets themselves got locked down. Staffers working from home are floating enquiries, with the knowledge that production and supply worldwide will occur only once the crisis is over. The world is on a standstill. Construction and hence stone trade can wait, humanity has to go on, safety first is the current mantra.
23 March, 2020
Jeffrey Matthews, Trade Intl, USA
Projects are still working but limitation is there on the number of workers available. Many companies in general may not weather this medical emergency and don’t have the reserve finances in place to help them. Most stone offices and showrooms are now closing for lack of customers and the stay at home rules are forcing it to happen, as well as financial concerns related to afford remodeling is also taking a toll.
Carmen Maria García Sanchez, Marmoles Sol, Spain
First, all our support to all in this tough situation, all of us are in this together. We will see a complete change in our industry and in the economic situation. For now the orders have been paralysed for floorings, and the order for slabs will gradually come down which means in a week time we will have very little work in our industry.
21 March, 2020
Claude Gargi, Pierre Actual, France
Step by step the French stone industry is stopping its activities. It is difficult to know what to do because the Governement asks people to stay at home but also wants that the companies continue to produce and install.
20 March, 2020
Rakesh Sharma, SK Intl, India
It is a global problem. One should be careful about being healthy and keeping family and friends healthy as well. Businesses are badly affected and looks like the worst is still to come. Global economy will be in a bad situation. One has to be careful and keep low for the time being.
Heikki Palin, Palin Granit,Finland
The quarries in Finland are working. Self inspection of blocks has increased compared to before. Chinese block inspectors have started applying for visas.
12 March, 2020
Ali Sayakci, Sayakci Stone, Turkey
We are seeing the first lights of recovery from the Chinese market. Because of travel restrictions most of the market is on halt. India has started to slow down. If the situation triggers a global recession or a credit crunch things will worsen starting from the West.
Fanel Videanu, Theda Mar, Romania
Romania seems not affected at all so far. However, the volatility seems high and rapid changes might be seen.
Francisco Segura, Piedra Paloma, Spain
For now the demand continues to be good, but we think the market will fall before summer.
Herwig Callewier, Brachot Group, Belgium
The business in the BRACHOT group is not that much affected yet as we mainly work with materials that we hold in stock. For the Chinese materials, we always put more stock at the end of each year as we know that during and up to one month after Chinese New Year the supplies are weak. Of course this year, we will run out of stock on certain fast-selling Chinese products.
The situation in China seems to be coming back to normal (except for the Hubei materials such as TALILA GREY and ARDESIA NERA where production is still on hold): most factories have started production again but there’s a lack of labor. I suppose a lot of migrant labor have not returned to their previous employer which causes big disruption.
Since this week, we feel the impact of the Italian lockdown: most of our suppliers are still working but it is difficult to find transport companies to collect our orders. We have increased production in our Belgian and South African facilities. We also fear a shortage of tools and abrasives due to the problems in China and Italy – this could affect our own productions all over the world.
Most of our customers still have good order books but it is clear that the corona crisis will also hit the real estate business, which will lead to a serious slowdown of the building industry in Europe. For the time being, the investments that have been decided in our group such as the refurbishment of our Head Office in Belgium, the new Stone Gallery and the renovation of our Paris depot, still go ahead as planned. We have to see how big the impact of the corona crisis will be on this year’s turnover and results before we change our investment plans.
Jeffrey Matthews, Trade Intl, USA
Travel and trade shows have been reduced to a standstill. Most people are canceling meetings. Many meetings are moving to conference and video conferencing and many large corporations are telling people to work from home, if possible.
Economy is slowing down and recession here is imminent. To what degree depends on how the Fed handles it. Stock market is off 15% and all profits for the year are lost. Construction is still moving forward and now with the Fed new interest rate, which it has lowered, this has given added incentives for home sales to increase. Commercial construction is still moving forward, no real affect yet, but time will tell. Most things are still too new with this virus.
It is too soon to really tell how this will affect the stone industry.
Kaliannan C, Metal Management, India
Block exports to China and Italy have been affected and slab exports to Europe are also affected. US is OK so far. Monument business is also OK. As far as inspectors is concerned, self inspection is going on and there is no effect of virus , but buyers visits are getting postponed.
Kalit Bhandari, Shree Rishabh Marmo & Granite, India
Exports are being affected badly due to fall of demand from Europe and especially from China. Most of the projects are suspended. Logistics is another issue as there is uncertainty in sea and air cargo.
Mikhael Selezniov, Vozrozhdenie, Russia
Russian stone market is different from the rest of the world. We use stone mainly in road building and city amenities and the main Customer is the Russian state. So in my opinion there will be no direct impact in this sector.
Traditionally Russia imports high value tombstones from China. Now it is become more problematic. Deliveries are postponed and price is higher (because of the exchanging rate of ruble to $). Importers will feel this inconvenience. For the local quarry companies and processing companies working in the funeral sector this is a chance to strengthen their position, at least in 2020. Many Russian customers try to buy tombstones before June because of the Russian Christian Orthodox tradition. But if the prices go up maybe people will prefer artificial materials.
In the Premium segment slabs and finished products made of precious and semi-precious stones come not only from China but from different countries. But this sector is not so big in Russia.
Russia is not a stone export oriented country. That is why it will not feel the effect of lack of ships and containers to China or other countries.
Who will feel the effect?
Companies which purchase machinery and tools from China are noting the delay in deliveries. Since the consumption of tools is not going down Russians will try to find alternative suppliers, maybe even from Russia. The prices will probably be higher. So the situation can be good for domestic producers and alternative suppliers.
My opinion that the direct impact on stone business is not so evident in Russia at least for now. In the future we will probably feel both impacts, negative and positive. The situation is not dramatic.
Patrick Perus, Polycor, Canada
So far this has not affected us in a meaningful way. But the US is just at the beginning of the pandemic, so who knows what will happen. Your guess is as good as mine. We expect a severe and short downturn, hopefully followed by a catch-up phase.
Paulo F. Giafarov, DGG Stones, Brazil
As of now the local market is not affected. The exporters continue to get orders for now though I have heard of US customers asking their Brazilian suppliers to keep the orders on hold. However, the situation could change soon. If people in USA stay at home and do not go to the warehouse to buy slabs, business will come to a halt.
Pawel Bereza, Pamir, Poland
Till now the stone industry in Poland has not been affected and it has been normal activity. We shifted our suppliers to Spain because of lack of supplies from China. But now there is uncertainty and it is too early to make predictions.
Saket Hans, Ohm Int'l, USA
Business will get affected. It hasn’t started to as yet, but am sure that there are events happening in the background which will affect our future business. The panic in the market is bound to cause issues. I predict a short but steep global recession. We cannot afford it to last long, but hopefully it’s long enough, and yet short enough, to clean the marketplace. But it will come. The length will depend on the governments and how disciplined the people are. There will be collateral damage too. Overall, it will be a bad year. Our business, like a bunch of others, depend heavily on travel. With no travel, the effects will show up in the short and long term.
Yasser Al Ajmi, Al Ajmi Marble, Oman
Coronavirus with its new version is hitting hard most of the industries. As natural stone industry we are not far away from these industries and the fact is that the fast reactions to the spread of coronavirus holds most of the key. All plans are on hold for now. In the beginning of the coronavirus issue during Feb 2020 I thought that the this issue would increase the demand for other materials out of China but the fact is that coronavirus is a global issue and it has hit everybody.
There is some light down the tunnel. Some steps must be taken. You have to make the maximum use of these measures. Go back to your factory and do full major maintenance. Look at your old stock and review it. Do not travel and stay with your employees. Run company at minimum cost.
China has started managing the coronavirus and South Korea is on its way. We must salute them and learn from them. I am hoping that summer will come back normally and the sun will rise shortly. It is a matter of weeks or months.
By the way buy some shares. It is an excellent time to do that.
Z. Safarikova, Kamen Engineering, Czech Republic
We are working as usual till now. Difficult to say what will be happen in future Yesterday we loaded a truck in Italy and hopefully it will arrive tomorrow or on Monday. Italian companies are still working but it is possible that they will stop working from next Monday. The situation is changing very quickly.