A look at the current situation

China has turned into a natural stone giant with rapid development, particularly in the last five years. There are meanwhile four main regions for natural stone production and handling imports and exports: the provinces of Shandong, Fujian, Sichuan and Guangdong. The key centres of Chinese stone processing have been created mainly in Shandong, Fujian and Guangdong. Their chief function is to process local and imported materials into products for decorative interior finishing. Large quantities of natural stone are also imported for processing into gravestones for the Japanese and Korean market. The annual sales value is about 500 million US dollars. About 50,000 companies currently operate in the stone sector in China. Their annual slab production is 160 – 180 million square metres.

There are two regional sales channels for natural stone products in China: First individual companies set up sales networks with branches in several different places. Second special ?stone markets? are set up on the outskirts of the cities, where the sales branches of several hundred companies are combined under one roof.

Most of the machinery and equipment for extraction, processing, installation and maintenance can now be manufactured to meet the requirements in China itself, but there is still a large gap between China and the highly mechanized industrial countries in the high-tech machinery sector.

The demand for natural stone materials in the domestic building industry is the key to the continuing upward trend in the Chinese stone industry, as living space is still in short supply in China. The building industry should remain the most important pillar of the Chinese economy in the next ten years. The consumption of natural stone materials is to top the 300 million square metres mark and the import volume is to reach a value of 1,000 million US dollars. Natural stone imports are still concentrated on materials not obtainable in China.

Machinery manufacture will develop into another key export branch in addition to the export of large quantities of natural stone. Chinese machinery is currently gaining market shares especially in the Middle East, North America and Eastern Europe. The export volume in 2004 was some 30 million US dollars. The Chinese stone industry has also developed decisively through the introduction of modern extraction and processing techniques. Today, diamond wires, large cranes, loaders and other high-tech machines and equipment are also used in Chinese quarries.