Italy, Spain and above all, China, are the largest markets for both supply and demand globally. These countries not only have huge exports, they are also large importers of rough and semi-cut stone to be finished on site, satisfying a market which is increasingly varied and complex.
Between 2000 and 2005, the market was split between China (19.5%), Italy (14.7%), India (9.5%) and Spain (7.7%). There has, however, been some recent activity from other counties, such as Brazil, Iran and Greece, which are offering highly competitive prices.
A growth in Sicilian exports was confirmed by the figures for 2005, which show that Sicily is amongst the top export regions for this sector. This positive trend is in strong contrast to national trends and, in particular, when compared to the two market leaders in the sector, Tuscany and Veneto, which are suffering from the German economic crisis.
Ports for transport of the goods which are situated near to the centres of production are considered particularly useful, especially at present when the expansion and strengthening of the transport system is considered a priority by the Regione Siciliana. There are several other competitive advantages offered by the area, such as its long tradition of marble extraction, especially in the Province of Trapani, which has a productive capacity of 2.7% of the total production worldwide (with an extremely low percentage of quarry exploitation). The Ragusa and Catania areas also boast a highly skilled labour force with a particular focus on quality stonecutting of granite and lava stone for ornamental purposes.
This is furthered by extensive investment in the training of employees skilled in choosing raw materials and adding value to some of the more typical products, such as Perlato di Sicilia Classico and Botticino. These are particularly popular for satisfying demand in North America and Europe (mostly Germany and the Netherlands) markets which are traditionally more demanding and varied than the Asian markets.
Worth a mention is the attention the stone industry is receiving from the Regione Siciliana through the Regional Integrated Scheme FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF MARBLE AND PRECIOUS STONE MATERIALS, part of the POR 2000/2006 Programme. Activities include technological innovation and company development involving several millions of euros.