Have you noticed that when you go to the internet and look up the top exporters of natural stones, you will see a lot of countries, and China is one of them?
China’s cost of natural stones is part of its comparative advantages, but other factors play a role in its strength. Government support, industry clusters, and good-performing ports make this country the top source of natural stones.
Read on as we discuss the details of China’s export through the years, including what has improved and how it’s further enhancing the stone trade.
The Stone Industry in China
If you’re searching for natural stone product suppliers—whether raw or unprocessed, such as quality slabs, medallions, mosaics, and marble furniture—the companies that have them at a reasonable price are found in China.
China is rich in natural resources and has been one of the most prominent traders since the 1st century CE, supplying the world’s demand for goods almost exclusive to a specific geographic area: aromatic woods, spices, resin, gems, and stones.
Fast-forward to the 21st century, the country’s abundance of mines and processing sites is effectively used in a strategy where businesses in the stone industry will cluster around them to alleviate hardships in transporting stone products.
China’s Status in Natural Stone Trade
In 2018, the recorded number of mines in China was about 2,150. These mines are the source of more than 12 types of stones, including the most in-demand ones: marble and granite.
|Type of Natural Stone||Number of Mines in China (2018)|
In terms of sizes, we have large-scale mines amounting to 55 and 90 medium-sized mines and a count of 2,008 for small mines.
Over the years, China’s stone product exports fluctuate depending on the market demand. For example, in 2005, Dubai was undergoing a massive development in its residential and hospitality sectors.
Together with this development is the demand for natural stones in building and construction, including the 18,000 new hotel rooms. In particular, the requirement for marble and granite is very high as part of the necessary raw materials.
European stones are the standard contractors have, and they discovered that China’s natural stones could go on par with this quality standard at a much more competitive price.
Aesthetic-wise, they are perfect for establishing luxury rooms, especially in high-end locations like Dubai.
Natural Stone Export Data of China (2010 to 2022)
This section will give an overview of China’s natural stone export starting from 2010 for a 10-year record.
China’s Marble Group Export Worth to the World
HS Code/Commodity Group: 2515 “Marble, travertine, cuisine, and other calcareous monumental or building stone of an apparent specific gravity of 2.5 or more, and alabaster, whether or not roughly trimmed or merely cut, by sawing or otherwise, into blocks or slabs of a rectangular (including square) shape”
From 2010 to 2021, we can see that the highest worth was in 2014, with about $25 million. And despite the COVID-19 pandemic destabilizing the global market, China’s marble worth was almost $15 million in 2020 and skyrocketed to more than $20 million in 2021.
China’s Granite Group Export Worth to the World
HS Code/Commodity Group: 2516 “Granite, porphyry, basalt, sandstone and other monumental or building stone, whether or not roughly trimmed or merely cut, by sawing or otherwise, into blocks or slabs of a rectangular (including square) shape”
On the other hand, granite exports were at their peak in 2013, reaching almost $100 million. Despite the pandemic, the succeeding values are not necessarily “weaker” but play around $30 to $40 million.
China’s Marble and Granite Group Trade Growth
Looking at the data from the same commodity group (2515 and 2516), there was a significant growth of natural stone exports in 2022, both in quantity and value or the average price per tonne.
This is reflective of the recovering global economy and lighter COVID-19 restrictions, as there has been an increase in exports to the following countries:
- South Korea, the US, and Vietnam (marble)
- Japan, South Korea, and the US (granite)
Expected Performance of the Chinese Natural Stone Industry in 2023
There is a projected rise in the demand for marble. Its worth will reach $93.7 billion by 2031. As expected, this natural marble’s appearance combines luxury, elegance, top-tier quality, and durability.
The causes of this demand increase are related to the following:
- Construction industry. Even during the pre-pandemic period, marble has been a staple material in building structures. But there is a prediction that there will be more pressure on the marble market due to more construction activities post-pandemic.
The particular forms of marble that will be sought after aside from slabs are floorings, tiles, and façade.
- Art and carving industry. Carvers have been using marble as their material for a long time, and they will apply it more in construction as well. The stone is also famous in 3D art.
Of course, We can already expect that China will be the most significant contributor to the marble market, giving the largest share in the market’s growth because of its potent stone industry.
Why Is China Overtaking the Global Natural Stone Market?
Now that we have explained China’s performance in the global natural stone trade, it’s time for you to discover why this country’s stone industry is robust.
Natural Stone Industry Clusters
We mentioned that China is rich in natural stone mines. To alleviate or altogether avoid the challenge of transporting the stones to different places, such as processing factories, the latter then cluster around or near the mines.
The ports of exports are also within reach, such as the Port of Xiamen, whose zones extend to 10 cities or towns in Xiamen and Zhengzhou; this advantage makes it easier for companies to load and unload products.
Why is this important? The logistics make up more than 50 percent of the natural stones’ total cost, and industry clusters help save money.
Great Maritime Access
Making the Ports of Xiamen and Shandong examples, the two have more than 68 and 311 shipping routes, respectively. In fact, 60 percent of the Chinese stone trade comes from Xiamen.
This gives China access to different countries and is integral to the international trade of natural stones (and other products).
Efficient and Technologically Advanced Ports of Export
The Chinese government is very supportive of its stone industry and trade in general, and one of its goals is to improve ports through technology further.
The Port of Xiamen is experiencing an upgrade, first announced in 2020 by the Xiamen Container Terminal Group. Some of these technological advancements include:
- terminal operating system (TOS) to make the loading and unloading of cargo faster and more efficient
- increased cargo security
- remote control port equipment
This will contribute to the Chinese ports’ quick turnaround time and overall performance and can potentially attract more revenue from natural stones.
China maintains its status as one of the world’s most significant exporters of natural stones and is projected to become the top source of the said materials in the upcoming years.
Aside from the post-pandemic increase in demand for stones such as marble—particularly for the construction and art sectors—China’s focus on its natural stone industry adds to the power and potential.
The strategic industry clusters and upgrades in the ports of exports complement the country’s maritime access, which is integral to international trade.