Representatives of Turkish natural stone sector, had left the Xiamen Stone Fair and İzmir Marble Fair, the two leading events, which lead the natural stone sector in many ways and were held at the beginning of the season, with great hopes. The overall opinion was towards achieving higher figures in 2018, compared to the figures of 2017. Even though the figures were realized above the expectations until the sixth month, it began to reduce month by month and the figures remained below our expectations. Our sector performs production and sales of blocks and processed products. When we look at the export data for the first 11 months of 2018, we see that our cut to size product export was reduced by % 1, 92 in value and increased by % 7, 15 in amount compared to the same period of 2017. As for the blocks, our block export has reduced by %15, 8 in value and %9,84 in amount. This was a disappointment for the sector. Unfortunately, the sector, which realized natural stone export valued at 1,8 billion U.S.D. in the first 11 m months period of 2018, could not satisfy our expectations The total decline in the sector was % 5,17 in amount and % 6,35 in value.
The decline in our block exports was reflected on to the general exports. There are many factors that cause this decline. One of the leading factors is China. Turkey makes 82 % of the block exports and almost half of the natural stone exports to China. China has an important role for our sector. Turkish natural stone sector has been declining due to the economic recession in China, the problems with the USA, the exchange rate fluctuation, the shrinkage of the demand for security sales, the new environmental policies brought by the state and the existing stocks since the beginning of 2018. It seems that the problems will continue for a while.
Although the current market conditions led to a fall in demand, the demand for some stones, which were in fashion, continued to increase. Although Turkey is advantageous in terms of marble diversity, among other countries across the world, we have not been able to produce latest trend stones on demand, although we own their reserves, due to production delays caused by the bureaucracy. This was another main reason that caused decline in our natural stone exports. When Turkey’s cut to size material and block sales are reviewed, the reduction in USD based unit prices are remarkable. According to the information we have received after the visits of our friends from the sector to China, one reason for this decline is the price competition. This price competition was not only remarkable in the block but also in the size products markets as well.
At the stake of 2018, the sector was hoping for some adjustments in terms of the licensing processes and field permits regarding the mining facilities. Berat Albayrak, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of that period, had mentioned about some structural changes and a total change in the strategy, in the processes conducted by many related institutions, including the General Directorate of Mining Affairs.
However, the sector is still wasting up to 1, 5 – 2 years time, in order to receive mining license permits , especially for the mineral sites corresponding to forest and pasture areas (EIA and Article 7 permits). Legal regulations on this issue were not sufficient.
If the statement, “We used to sell what we produces, but now we have to sell what we produce!” is correct and if we need to follow the natural stone fashion, the mineral producers should do this. Institutions such us, on the other side, should save time for the investors that are able to fulfill the conditions. If we need to foresee the situation of the domestic market for the year 2019, it would not be wrong to say that the sector will be adversely affected by the shrinkage in the construction sector, the high loan rates, the increasing demands of companies for concordatum and current inflation rates. If the cut to size material exporters cannot resist the price competition, the natural stone producers will have to stop production in their high technology factories, which they have established in the last five years.