Two events marked the natural rock market in 2021: embracing of social distancing and remote selling, and physical exhibitions.
The obstacles and challenges kept on coming in 2021. Literally, from the beginning to the end of the year, companies faced a series of problems: two mutations of the coronavirus, a drop in the vaccination rate, new restrictions on movement and lockdown, transport problems, rise in energy prices, the collapse of the construction industry, shortages of electricity in China, etc.
However, companies have managed to cope by implementing strategic changes that helped the market recover. The turning point was the distance sales using photos and videos. Obstacles to physical presence have been overcome with technology, and companies are now making large-scale sales of marble and granite online.
The change in contact between importers and exporters of natural rocks is remarkable. Before the pandemic, it was almost “unthinkable” to sell natural rocks without the physical presence of a seller and a buyer. Since the pandemic outbreak, the trends in exports show that the market has adopted and is getting used to the new way of contact and sale.
Typical examples are found in China and the USA, the largest importers of marble and granite globally, where the governments applied strict entry restrictions.
From the covid outbreak onwards, travelling to China, the biggest marble blocks and slabs, and granite importer, is nearly impossible for anyone. At the same time, travelling in the provinces and within the cities is limited depending on the number of COVID cases. Nevertheless, the imports’ statistics of marble blocks and slabs and granite of the last five years show that imports are increasing:
The value of imports of marble blocks and slabs, and granite in China reached a five-year record in the first nine months of 2021. Quarterly, a five-year record was set in the value of imports of raw marble in the third quarter, while for granite it was set in the second quarter of 2021.
In the USA, the largest importer of finished marble and granite across the globe, the entry ban was in force until the beginning of last November. However, statistics between 2017 – 2021 show a considerable increase in imports:
In the graph, we see that the value of imports of finished marble reached a five-year record in the nine months of 2021, while the highest was in the third quarter of 2021. Imports of finished granite did not have the same upward trend but moved at high levels.
The market exhibitions held in 2021 can also be characterised as unique due to their circumstances. More specifically, Marble Izmir Fair and Marmomac, where Stonenews.eu was present, showed the market’s desire for physical contact. The participation of exhibitors and visitors, in proportion, was satisfactory but did not resemble previous years’ participation. Nevertheless, the exhibition’s organisers managed to complete a difficult task and lay the foundations for the market’s restart.
Almost all natural stone market reports have announced the dates for the new year. However, the new Omicron variant will likely lead to the cancellation or change of exhibition dates scheduled for at least the first quarter of 2022. The India Stonemart 2022 organisers have already announced the date change from 17-20 February to November 10-13.
The new year begins with uncertainty, even in the prediction reports. The predictions for the 2022 global economy and the construction industry were presented before the outbreak of the Omicron variant. Therefore, they do not account for how the new market conditions, such as potential lockdowns or new travel restrictions, will impact the global economy.
However, according to the new data, it is very likely that the first quarter of 2022 will have a subdued international, commercial activity, as inflation will remain, as well as problems in the supply chain and high transport costs.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that the evidence for the Omicron variant in 2022 is encouraging, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) will gradually begin to become endemic instead of a pandemic.