Indispensable for the sustainability of the Greek marble industry is its incorporation in favorable arrangements by the Greek Government, says Mrs. Julie Chaida.
The Greek economy is continuing its downward trend rapidly as a result of the worldwide spread of coronavirus. Indicative are the OECD data that the country is facing the worst crisis since 2010. Sectors that have traditionally supported the Greek economy have been severely affected, while some have ceased to operate, resulting in a dizzying decline in employment.
The Greek marble industry is also a sector that is severely affected by the outbreak of coronavirus. We asked the opinion of the President of the Greek Marble Business Association, Mrs. Julie Chaida:
The outbreak of coronavirus has hit most of the productive sectors worldwide and of course the natural stone industry could not be an exception as it is mainly anthropocentric. To what extent has the Greek marble industry been affected? Have the mining operations stopped or have the processing plants stopped operating in the Greek territory? If not, how prepared are businesses to operate under these new conditions? And what about exports?
The Greek marble industry, like most industries worldwide, has been hit hard by the spread of COVID-19. China is the number one customer of the Greek marble industry, accounting for 60% of Greek marble exports. It is understandable, therefore, that everything that took place during this period with the coronavirus in flux and landing on Chinese businesses since the beginning of 2020 has hit the industry in particular. Official figures for 2019 show that of the € 395 million in Greek marble exports, € 215 million came from the Chinese market, which means that Greek marble industries have already lost a huge amount from the Chinese market.
In addition, our industry is a purely extroverted sector, exporting 76% of total sales to more than 120 countries. As a result, due to the spread of the virus to other countries around the world and the restriction of movement, exports have fallen sharply to almost zero.
In this climate our businesses have not stopped operating: their factories continue their production and mining has not stopped. It is therefore understandable how difficult it is to operate under these conditions.
Recently, in a letter, you requested, as an association, the state’s practical support to the industry, by incorporating Greek marble mining and processing companies into the package of favorable measures announced by the state. Are there any other actions you are taking to protect and relieve the industry?
Indeed, on 19/3 we sent a request to the relevant Ministries to integrate our companies into the favorable measures taken by the state for the businesses affected. We hope that this call for the relief of the industry will be accepted immediately. The decision to integrate the Greek marble industry into favorable arrangements is essential for these businesses to ensure their viability and maintain all jobs. It is a fact that the Association strives in every way to support its members through various actions such as our cooperation with the corresponding Marble Industry Association of China’s XIAMEN region to offer 50,000 protective masks to our member businesses.
The crisis in the marble industry is a global phenomenon. Is there a willingness for joint action to support the industry globally at international level?
In addition to the action I have described above, we have already begun some joint actions with the corresponding Italian Association for the promotion of the benefits of natural stones over artificial ones worldwide. It is a fact that we had planned several joint actions with relevant overseas agencies to support the industry and now with the deployment of COVID- 19 the need for cooperation will be even greater.
A forecast for the next day?
The concern at this time is enormous and all forecasts and estimates may turn out to be false. There is a global upheaval, Europe is suffering tragically with untold consequences. The first quarter is lost but unfortunately for the next period until June it does not appear that things will return to normal. Let us hope that after this upheaval, we will see a speedy normalization of the situation and the balance in the world market will be restored immediately. Of course we must not lose our optimism, we will again emerge victorious from this crisis.