Below potential: Despite rising marble exports, industry remains unsatisfied

By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune

KARACHI: Blame it on bad governance or a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the local business community, the fact remains that Pakistan is one those countries that export many of its precious raw materials – like cotton and marble – which are then re-exported to developed economies in far more expensive, value-added forms.

Therefore, it was not surprising that while Pakistan’s exports of marble, travertine and ecaussine reached $40.3 million after increasing by 53% between 2010 and 2011 – the latest year for which data was available – All Pakistan Marble Mining Processing Industry and Exporters Association (APMMPIEA) Chairman Sanaullah Khan was still not entirely satisfied.

“We do not sell any finished products to China. It buys marble in big, huge blocks, only to process it further and export it to other countries,” he said while speaking to The Express Tribune.

China was the major importer of Pakistani marble with a share of almost 85% in Pakistan’s exports in the category in 2011, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Similarly, China also imported well over two-thirds of granite, porphyry, basalt and sandstone that Pakistan exported in 2011.

Traditionally, Pakistan exported marble and granite to the United States, European countries and the Middle East. Khan said that Pakistani marble exporters reduced their exports to the US and Europe by almost 60% after the financial crisis hit the two markets in 2008.

“After that, we turned our focus to China, which imported our goods in their raw forms,” he said, adding that countries in the Middle East bought finished goods from Pakistan, but profit margins in that market had been relatively small.

Exploring new avenues

Expo Pakistan – the country’s flagship trade exhibition organised by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) from October 4 to 7 – was likely to bolster Pakistan’s dwindling exports of finished marble and granite products, said Khan.

“Visitors from Japan, Russia, the Czech Republic, Australia, Malaysia and Brazil showed great interest in our products. They have taken our samples back to their countries and I am quite confident that we are going to receive some huge orders,” he said, adding that all of these countries were potential markets for finished products unlike China and can offer higher prices.

Lavishing praise on the officials who helped organise the exhibition, he said it was markedly better than those held in previous years. He added that commercial attachés posted at embassies and consulates of Pakistan all around the world were by and large unaware of the potential of Pakistan’s stone, marble and granite sector.

According to TDAP, Pakistan had a 0.01% share in total world exports of marble and granite in 2009-10. China, Italy and Germany were the largest marble exporters in the world during the same year while the US, China and Germany remained the biggest marble importers.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 10, 2012.

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