Granite makes big gains in 2010 U.S. imports

With initial reports in from the U.S. International Trade Commission on December 2010 imports, it’s possible to take a preliminary look at last year’s traffic in dimensional stone.

The following is an exclusive Stone Business analysis of data released Feb. 10, 2011, by  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 (at least once).

With worked granite, the $956.8 million in 2010 customs values shows a 24.1-percent increase from 2009’s $770.1 million. It’s still far away, however, from the peak year of 2006 and its $1.53 billion.

Brazil topped the charts in 2010 worked granite value at $413.9 million, making a  45.3-percent recovery from the previous year. China placed second at $215.7 million with an ever-so-slight decline from 2009 of 0.3 percent; India moved ahead of Italy into third, as the countries posted $134.8 million  (+35 percent) and $121.2 million (+15.3 percent), last year, respectively.

In volume, the 1.61-million metric tons of worked granite brought to the United States last year marked a 43.4-percent increase from 2009. While that came close to 2008’s 1.71 million metric tons, it’s still far from the record mark of 2.63-million metric tons in 2006.

Brazil also held a commanding top position in 2010 U.S. granite imports by volume, with its 677,857 metric tons representing a 52.8-percent rise from 2009. China remained in second place with 367,600 metric tons – a 22-percent increase from 2009 – while India raised its U.S. presence by 62 percent to 316,957 metric tons last year.

Worked marble didn’t fare as well in 2010; the $189.3 million in customs value represented a slight 2.6-percent decline from 2009, caused mainly by lower totals from Italy and Greece. And it’s a long ways from the top of the market in 2007, with total U.S. import values of $318.6 million.

In volume, however, worked marble turned around, with the 169,831 metric tons for 2010 showing a 1.6-percent increase from the previous year. China kept the #1 position it gained in 2009 in marble tonnage, with its 55,341 metric tons outweighing Italy’s 45,291 metric tons. Of the four U.S. trade partners – China, Italy, Turkey and Spain – shipping more than 10,000 metric tons of worked marble, all showed increases from 2009.

U.S. imports in travertine also experienced small gains for 2010; the $247.3 million in value made for a 1.1-percent increase from 2009, while the 457,610 metric tons shipped marked a 7.4-percent improvement. Much of this came as Turkey ramped up production; its 347,150 metric tons last year yielded a 12.1-percent growth from 2009.

For other calcareous stone, 2010 will be the year of Lebanon’s vanishing act. Import values fell by 21.8 percent from 2009 totals to settle at $90.8 million, while volume plummeted by a staggering 47.7 percent to 348,284 metric tons, as the Mideast country disappeared from the import market after last May.

The catch-all category of other stone managed some good news with its mixed haul; the 2010 U.S. import values of $223 million marked a 9.3 percent gain, with Brazil repeating its #1 performance with $72.9 million (up 22.5 percent from 2009). Other stone volume through U.S. ports-of-entry increased by 14.4 percent in 2010 to 281,851 metric tons, with Brazil taking the top spot with 100,173 metric tons.

Slate, meanwhile, puttered along in 2010 to post U.S. import values of $56.7 million – down a mere 0.8 percent from the previous year. Import leaders China ($23.8 million) and India ($22.4 million) suffered declines in 2010; Brazil, farther back at $4.6 million, nevertheless recovered by 15.9 percent from a disastrous 2009.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

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