Monthly Archives: July 2011

StatWatch: U.S. Stone Imports, May 2011

Stone charges ahead, fueled by big increases in granite value and volume and good performances from the marble sector. Other stone categories offer mixed results.

StatWatch is a snapshot of U.S. dimensional-stone imports, offering a summary and exclusive Stone Business analysis of data from the U.S. International Trade Commission. Comparisons are made mainly on an annual level to gauge market trends. Analysis is made on import figures of the latest month available.

All figures give are for May 2011 (change from May 2010 amounts in parentheses). “Worked” stone is material that’s shorn from boulders and blocks, and then cut in standard dimensional measures (such as slabs and tiles) and polished (at least once, one side). “Value” represents the declared customs value of stone.

$98.6 million (18.3.1%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ $45.1 million (26.1%)

Backfill: All of a sudden, 2011 looks great for dimensional-stone’s biggest market portion, with May offering the biggest month since the $99.7 million total from last August. Along with Brazil, India primes the pump with $16.9 million, up 45.0 percent from May 2010. China and Italy hew closer to last May’s performances, with small increases of 1.1% and 1.4%, respectively.

226,343 metric tons (48.3%)
Sector leader: India @ 97,489 metric tons (97.0%)

Backfill: It’s bada-BING as the actual tonnage of granite slabs and tiles for May increases by almost half from a year ago. India’s near-doubling of shipments from May 2010 is likely a one-month-wonder, but the rest of granite’s Big Four also show plenty of strength. Brazil’s 57,349 metric tons offer an 18.4 increase from May 2011; China, meanwhile, rolls 27%-more granite onto U.S. docks with 51,422 metric tons. Italy also ups last year’s totals, with 8,573 metric tons representing a 24.7% increase.

$18.3 million (8.5%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $8.7 million (36.9%)

Backfill: The good-news parade continues into the marble sector, although Italy’s big increases are offset somewhat by China’s 13.2% decline and Turkey’s 24.8% drop from May 2010. Spain’s $1.8 million this May offers a 6.2% increase; a small-but-mighty boost, however, is Greece’s $674,521, a 109.5% jump from the same time last year.

15,622 metric tons (5.5%)
Sector leader: China @ 5,307 metric tons (-4.0%)

Backfill: China keeps the top spot for a second consecutive month; while it records a slight drop from last year, marble tonnage to the United States this May shows a 48% from April 2011. Italy’s 30% increase from last May yields 4,350 metric tons, and Spain gets a 3.8%  raise with its 1,954 metric tons.

Total: $23.1 million (6.2%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ $15.1 million (6.5%)

Backfill: Travertine – at least in customs value – lets the good times roll for stone imports this month, led by perennial leader Turkey. Mexico also lends a big hand here, with $4.6 million passing last year’s amount by 7.1 percent. China also steps up with a 10.1% increase to $876,834, while Italy’s $898,834 offers nominal 1.5% growth. Peru takes a tumble of 34.7% from last year, finishing this May at $720,567.

37,717 metric tons (-1.7%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ 29,048 metric tons (6.1%)

Backfill: Even a good gain by sector leader Turkey doesn’t put travertine’s overall tonnage in positive territory. Mexico boomerangs from its May value increase by posting a volume loss of 27.6% at 5,272 metric tons; other major declines include Peru (684 metric tons, -36.7%) and Italy (630 metric tons, -55.6%). At least China offers a 17.4% gain from last year 885 metric tons … but that’s also down by almost half from April 2011 totals.

$7.7 million (-10.4%)
Sector leader: China @ $1.2 million (38.1%)

Backfill: Sure, there’s a 10% overall drop from May 2010, but that’s also the last month of Lebanon’s appearance in this U.S. import category. There’s only a few thousand dollars of difference (by value) from May to May between the top 15 importers; the biggest knock comes from Italy, down 43.4% at $936,108, with Portugal also dipping 19.6% at $784,273. France bucks up nicely at $770,726 (+45.1%), and Mexico shines at $670,347 (+21.7%).

Total: 14,054 metric tons (-76.0%)
Sector leader: Mexico @ 6,631 metric tons (1,287.2%)

Backfill: This is it; May 2011 marks the one-year anniversary of Lebanon’s last major shipments of other calcareous to the United States, which means a return to comparable year-to-year numbers next month. For now, it’s still a dance of factoring out Lebanon’s final impact and a massively abnormal May 2010 total from Turkey to get a real trend; slice those two countries from last year’s mix, and that 76% loss turns into a 121% gain. Trying to make sense of this May’s actual tonnage defies logic, as Mexico continues its fourth straight month of huge extraordinary shipments across the border.

Total: $4.7 million (-5.0%)
Sector leader: China @ $2.2 million (7.4%)

Backfill: While totals aren’t as good as last May, slate still records its best month of the year. The fall-off is due to India’s $1.7 million shipped to the United States, down 19.7% from the previous May. Brazil also fell off by 9.4%, although it’s in a distant third with May’s total of $318,078.

Total: $15.7 million (-26.6%)
Sector leader: India @ $5.0 million (-5.2%)

Backfill: The omnibus category of U.S. stone imports continues to underperform in 2011, although May offers the best totals for the sector since last November. Of the million-dollar shippers, only China offers gains from last May at $2.1 million (7.9%). Brazil falls by 51.9% to $3.8 million; other decliners include Canada ($1.5 million, -27.5%) and Italy ($1.2 million, -27.2%).

Total: 19,1487 metric tons (-27.3%)
Sector leader: India @ 6.059 metric tons (-4.0%)

Backfill: No country shipping more than a thousand metric tons in this category offered any growth in May 2011; compared to the same time last year, Brazil’s 5,236 metric tons shows a 52.9% decline. Canada also takes a big tumble – 18.3% — at 2,135 metric tons, and China’s 2,947 metric tons reflects a 5.6% drop. Italy, the fifth-largest importer, offers the first positive news with 7.1% growth … but shipments of only 664 metric tons.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

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We Stand, Uh, Revised

Not quite two months ago – May 16 – I wrote up a report for our “Eye on OSHA” series at Stone Business Online about the federal workplace-safety agency and its activities in this year’s first quarter. After all, by mid-May, the online database of national inspections should be fairly complete for January through March.

A federal Department of Labor press release in late June about fines totaling more than $40,000 for a stone shop, based on an inspection this February, looked odd; the review of OSHA inspections in May didn’t show any fines that large. And, the inspection report failed to show any major violations on silica air contaminants (as noted in the news release) when I looked at it last week.

However, I started looking at other reports filed during 1Q 2011, and something didn’t seem to add up. After a case-by-case review, I found the problem; by reviewing records in mid-May, some six weeks after the end of the first quarter, I’d started counting way too early.

So, here’s a revised “Eye on OSHA” for this year’s first quarter. And the big differences?

It turns out that the inspection-report total for 2011’s first three months grew by slightly more than half – from 42 I counted in May, the current tally rose to 64. The same happened with most of the categories I reviewed, from actual inspections to total violations cited.

Even with the later arrival of inspection reports, the main theme of the first-quarter report – OSHA inspections aren’t as numerous in 2011 – still holds true. The amended total of 64 reports still falls far short of the 118 filed in January-March 2010.

While double-checking the numbers, I reviewed each inspection report (yes, all 182 from both years, and it’s no picnic) for violations involving silica as an air contaminant. In January-March 2011, OSHA noted silica problems at 11 shops with 48 total exposures. For the first three months of this year, the agency cited silica at three shops, with 14 total exposures.

That’s, of course, a current tally. The final figures, as I’ve learned, may not be a match … whenever they come in.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

Get the latest on what’s going in the stone industry with THE FULL BULLNOSE, the twice-a-month e-newsletter from Stone Business! It’s free for the asking — sign up here.