StatWatch: Stone Imports, January 2009

   Only three countries – besides one-shot wonders like Caribbean islands with a single-wire saw – managed to get a lift in U.S. dimensional-stone export figures for the first month of this year. China is one; anybody guessing the other two is peeking down the column.

   The following is taken from data collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission. “Worked” stone is material that’s been shorn from boulders and blocks, and then cut in standard dimensional measures (such as slabs and tiles) and polished. All figures given are for January 2009 (changes from January 2008 data are shown in parentheses).


Worked Granite Value

Total: $71,011,555 (-35.1%)

Sector leader: Brazil @ $26,376,638 (-35.07%)

Backfill: Brazil led the pack at $26.3 million for the first month of the year, but China remains close at $21.1 million; while Brazil’ import value dropped by close to the total sector average, China’s declined by only 18.4%. Italy and India both suffered import-value losses of more than 40%.

Worked Granite Volume

Total: 77,747 metric tons (-38.53%)

Sector leader: Brazil @ 30,786 metric tons (-35.83%)

Backfill: Nobody started the year off on a positive note when it came to tonnage. China showed the least damage, with its 25,304 metric tons showing “only” a 23.5% loss from January 2008. Italy’s 7,425 metric tons is just about half its shipments of a year ago.

Worked Marble Value

Total: $17,286,968 (-29.13%)

Sector leader: Italy @ $7,856,191 (-21.26%)

Backfill: China actually gained 5.58% in import value with its $3.44 million – a rarity among all stone-exporting countries. Spain’s January 2009 numbers, meanwhile, fell through the floor, with its $1.18 million representing a 69.66% decline from the previous year.

Worked Marble Volume

Total: 14,536 metric tons (+23.21%)

Sector leader: China @ 4,358 metric tons (+34.3%)

Backfill: As it did last fall, China continues to best itself from previous-year performance by at least 30%. All other major marble exporters saw U.S. deliveries fall by 20%-25% — with the exception of Spain’s 64.62% drop-off.

Travertine Value

Total: $22,545,878 (-40.71%)

Sector leader: Turkey @ $15,439,236 (-36.97%)

Backfill: Turkey still controls two-thirds of the market – at least in import value – but it suffered as much as any exporting country. Well, except for China, where the $1 million sent stateside showed only a 10-percent drop from January 2008.

Travertine Volume

Total: 34,668 metric tons (-42.69%)

Sector leader: Turkey @ 27,528 metric tons (-38.41%)

Backfill: Nobody’s trying to make up in volume what they’re losing in price, as most major players here drop shipments by a third or better from January 2008. China fares a bit better with a 28.9% decline – but they only sent 933 metric tons to U.S. ports this January.

Other Calcareous Value

Total: $12,236,053 (-32.92)

Sector leader: Italy @ $2,163,266 (-28.35%)

Backfill: Lebanon swings back into high gear here, as its $1.51 million in stone marks a 118.4% increase from January 2008. Portugal, with a more-modest growth of 3.31%, sent in $1.53 million and squeaks into second place behind Italy.

Slate Value

Total: $5,125,055 (-41.15%)

Sector leader: China @ $2,615,848 (-29.5%)

Backfill: The seesaw race for top supplier is swinging to China, as India posted a monthly total of $1.8 million – down 48.5% from January 2008. Brazil suffered the least with a 22.7% drop in slate exports to the United States this January, but it’s a distant third at $497,428.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at, where you can also find this blog at the Main Menu under the clever title of “Editor’s Blog.”

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