2006 proved once again to be another good year for the production and processing of quarried marble and stone for ornamental purposes throughout the world. It remains a major industrial sector with large trade volumes and connected economic activity involving over 50 countries to a significant level, both as far as volume and technical skill are concerned, although the market is dominated by a small number of giants (in terms of the intrinsic value of the materials and of the volume produced). However, every year there are new entrants into the market adding new colours, textures and varieties. Sicily has a large segment of the Italian marble sector with 1,213 companies involved in the stone production process, and an overall turnover of approx. 200 million euros, (according to estimates released by the Regional District of Quality Stonecutters). Most marble companies are situated in the Provinces of Trapani, Catania and Ragusa, where the three largest marble associations are located - Consorzio Perlato di Sicilia in the Province of Trapani, Consorzio di Comiso in the Province of Ragusa and Consorzio Pietra Lavica in the Province of Catania.
In addition to these associations, the Regional association LAPIS, and a regional production district also operate on the island.
The Trapani area is particularly important to the island in this sector. This area alone represents 85% of the region's production, 15.7% of the national total and 2.7% of the world total. The town is situated on the 3rd largest marble basin in Italy, following Massa Carrara and Verona, and its average annual turnover is valued at over 120 million euros, with an average annual turnover per business of approx. 700,000 euros.
The most important countries for the exportation of Italian marble and granite are the European Union countries. This is a market which is enjoying a positive trend; an encouraging sign given the dip in exports experienced in 2002/2004. There is also a positive trend in the non-European Union markets including Switzerland, the Balkans and Turkey. Following shortly behind are the North American and Middle-Eastern markets.
In 2006, Italy exported marble and granite worth 1,910 million euros; an increase on previous years.
The figures for Sicily show that exports in this sector for the year 2006, according to estimates from the Regional Quality Stonecutting District, were worth approx. 60 million euros, a slight increase on the previous year's figures. The distribution of exports per country for Sicily varies compared to Italy in general, and is shown in the table below.
The freestone sector is of particular interest. Sicily exports 3.6% of the total national volume mainly to three countries - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, which alone represent over half the total exports for Sicily (65.9%). The American market is also expanding. The United States market share rose by 70%, equal to that of Canada. Canada has come in alongside the traditional market of the United States and is an interesting market opportunity for the Sicilian Freestone sector.
Exports to these two markets account for 14% of the total market share. Buyers, especially on the North American market, tend to vary greatly, mostly made up of small companies which are looking for high quality goods but with standardized characteristics to suit the American market.