The Italian stone sector, heavy uptake in exports in the first half of the year

Official statistics processed by the Confindustria Marmomacchine Studies Center for the first six months of the year certified the expected and strong rebound in exports for the Italian stone and techno-stone industry, which account for 70% of the sector’s total revenue. After the difficulties in 2020, foreign sales of natural stones (+33.6% from the first half of 2020) and quarrying and processing technologies (+38.8%) fully recouped, on the half-yearly basis, pre-pandemic levels. There was also growth in domestic sales.

In the first half of the year Italy’s foreign sales of marbles, granites and natural stones in general – both raw and finished products – increased in value by 33.6% from the same period in 2020 (a figure obviously seen in comparison with the minimums touched in March and April due to the lockdown), reaching 880.5 million euros. It should be noted that thanks to this extraordinary rebound by the Italian stone sector it had already returned to pre-pandemic levels (+1% from the first six months of 2019).

The biggest growth was in exports of raw stone products (up 54.2% for 186.1 million euros) with China still the top buyer of marble blocks from Italy – with a more than 50% share, worth 101.4 million -, increasing its purchases by 83.5%. Also doing well were exports of finished stone products – those with the highest added value, whose worth accounts for nearly 80% of Italy’s stone exports – which in the first six months of the year grew by 28.9% for a total of 696.4 million. The United States was the top market for Italian slabs and finished stone products, increasing imports by 40.8% (for 182.8 million) but there was also double-digit growth on all of Italy’s main markets, in particular the European: Germany (+14.8%, 72.8 million), Switzerland (+14.9%, 45.4 million), France (+39.8%, 41.1 million), the United Kingdom (+82.5%, 33.5 million) and Austria (+48.6%, 21 million). Also on the rise were exports of finished goods to China (+53.5%, 17.2 million) and the United Arab Emirates (+39.4%, 16.5 million) while they remained stable to Qatar (16.6 million) and underwent a “natural” downturn to Saudi Arabia (-30.6%, 22.2 million), which had been one of the few markets seeing growth last year.

The first part of the year was also extremely positive for the Italian industry making machines, installations, equipment and consumables for quarrying and processing natural stones, in the first half of 2021 increasing its foreign sales by 38.8% from the same period in 2020, and in this case, too, there was a full recoup of pre-Covid export levels (up 2.6% from the first six months of 2019).

And also for stone-working technologies Made in Italy the top buyer was the United States, with 75.2 million euros in imports. There were big increases in sales to the main European countries, especially the United Kingdom (+262% for 32.2 million) and Poland (+125.7%, 28.6 million), but also in Germany (+69.5%, 27 million, Portugal (+111.4%, 26.4 million) and France (+40%, 21.7 million) while Spain saw a downturn (-2.6%, but remained the third-ranking buyer with 34.7 million). Among non-European markets there was excellent performance in sales of machinery and equipment to Canada (+160.8%, 19.3 million) and China (+208%, 17.7 million) but a loss in exports to Egypt (-52.8% after heavy increases in recent years) although with purchases worth 35.9 million euros it remained in second place among foreign buyers.

“In the first half of 2021 the Italian stone/techno-stone sector, always one of the most dynamic of the Made in Italy, reaped the opportunities offered by the economic recovery and upturn in international trading, accelerating the rebound in exports already seen in the second half of 2020” commented Flavio Marabelli, Honorary President of Confindustria Marmomacchine, the Italian stone sector association. “Also to be cited was the decided uptake in sales on the domestic market, which in the first six months of the year saw a 40% increase in purchases of stone materials and 50% for technologies, for a total of 670 million euros. Should this upward trend – both internally and in exports – continue in the second half of the year, in spite of all the unknowns regarding the worldwide spread of the pandemic, the Italian stone/techno-stone sector could end the year close to 2019 levels,” continued Marabelli, “at which our companies were able to generate revenue of 4 billion euros, with exports worth nearly 3 billion and an active annual trade balance of 2.5 billion”.