StatWatch: Stone Imports, December 2009

At least the year didn’t end as awful as it began with stone imports, and some countries show positive numbers in a few categories. Overall, though, shipments remain well behind December 2008 totals.

The following is taken from data collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission. All figures give are for December 2009 (change from Decemberr 2008 amounts in parentheses). “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.

Worked Granite Value
Total: $73.4 million (-19.2%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ $30.3 million (-11.9%)
Backfill: The end of the year didn’t scream recovery, but granite import values remained steady through much of 2009’s last quarter. China’s December values dropped 16% from the previous year, but volume (see next item) rose, indicating some softening in prices.

Worked Granite Volume
Total: 84,864 metric tons (-34.7%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ 36,8254 metric tons (-10.4%)
Backfill: China managed to squeak out a small (5.2%) gain from December 2008, but they had the only gain among granite’s Big Four. India’s up-and-down ride in 2009 finished flat, with December granite tonnage down 78% from the previous year.

Worked Marble Value
Total: $16.3 million (-24.2%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $7.9 million (-21.%)
Backfill: Italy remained unchallenged as marble’s top dog in value (what else is new), but Spain may be finally ending its U.S. export freefall with only a 2.3% drop in December marble values. Not the same story with Greece, which fell 78.5%.

Worked Marble Volume
Total: 14,234 metric tons (-17.1%)
Sector leader: China @ 5,571 metric tons (+48.3%)
Backfill: While Italy gets more for its marble, China continues to dominate the U.S. market in volume – although its streak of monthly increases in tonnage ended at seven in October.

Travertine Value
Total: $17.3 million (-36.0%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ $10.6 million (-36.1%)
Backfill: Year-end trends don’t buck the year-long slowdown in export values by Turkey, which still controls two-thirds of the U.S. travertine market. The United Arab Emirates also continue to fall, with December 2009 values running 90.3% behind  the same time in 2008.

Travertine Volume
Total: 27,773 metric tons (-31.2%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ 20,844 metric tons (-27.5%)
Backfill: Mexico’s two-month rise in travertine imports earlier in the fall proved to be an anomaly, as December volume is down by 7,000 metric tons from October. Everybody shipping more than 100 metric tons to the United States is down by more than 20% from December 2008.

Other Calcareous Value
Total: $8.9 million (-27.8%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $1.5 million (-37.2%)
Backfill: While nobody’s reporting positive numbers when compared to December 2008, several countries – Portugal, Spain and France – have less than 10% drops and are still in the $1 million range in import values. Lebanon stayed even at $648K … but China’s $599K is 58.8% behind last year.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online, where you can also find Joe Becker’s Blog and follow a major restoration job of a Midwest cathedral’s stonework.

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