Pakistan: ‘Equipping marble sector with modern technology can help boost exports’

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Stone and marble sector has immense export potential and the business community should take benefit of an untapped opportunity with the use of modern technology.

Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and Pakistan Stone Development Company (PASDEC) organised an awareness session on the marble industry to shed light on available opportunities in the sector.

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“We are still using old technology to extract marble and in this process, rock blasting causes irreparable damage to the raw marble,” PASDEC chairperson Shamama tul Arbab said, adding that efforts were being made to switch over to modern day technology.

She apprised the participants that PASDEC was reaching to the business community to highlight the potential of the sector. It was the first session being held with an objective to take guidance from the businessmen, Arbab added.

PASDEC CEO Babar Miraj Shami said that Pakistan had rich resources of semi-precious gems, granite, onyx, marble and rock salt, which was also known as Himalayan salt but “unfortunately, we are not using these resources properly as most of the part is being exported in raw form.”

Another reason was that no public-private investment had so far been made on modern machinery and technology, he added. “We had an agreement with Italy regarding stone development but could not avail the opportunity because of red tapism.”

LCCI president Kashif Anwar said the marble industry had immense export potential, which needed to be exploited. He stated that the country had high quality marble and stones but use of old fashion technology for grading, cutting, polishing, and finishing had curtailed both quality and quantity. “Even today, we are using blasting to extract marble as a result of which, many precious stone are lost at the initial stage.”

Anwar was of the view that Pakistan was prominent for having green onyx, black granite, super white and other types of marble but most of those were being exported in raw form. He emphasised that the government should introduce a special policy for development of the sector and provide financial support to the people attached with stone and marble industry so that the country could earn huge foreign exchange by enhancing exports of the sector.

He also called for value addition and use of modern technology, underlining the need for financing to the SME sector. LCCI executive committee member Chaudhry Khadim Hussain said exports were imperative for survival of local businessmen as the imports were not viable for those who did not have sufficient exports.

“At global level, Pakistan known for blocks, not for the slabs,” he said, adding that blocks had very low value as compared to the slabs. “We do not have polishing and cutting facilities. We export marble in raw shape, which comes back to Pakistan after cutting and polishing but on exorbitant rates,” he maintained.

Hussain lamented that Pakistan was nowhere in the list of top exporting countries, urging the government to focus on the stone and marble sector. “The resources are diminishing throughout the world but Pakistan has these at vast scale,” he said.