Despite a 20-year-long record in the business and access to sizable and high-quality stone reserves, Iranian stone exporters have not yet been able to cross the $200 million mark in exports, the head of Stone Association of Iran said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Eighth Iran Stone Exhibition held in Tehran, Abolqasem Sharifi added that domestic stone producers’ lack of liquidity, modern manufacturing technologies and the government’s unwillingness to support stone exporters have impeded the industry’s path to growth.
“The sector’s unfavorable condition has caused over 700 of Iran’s 1,900 stone mines to go out of business,” he said.
According to data from the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, Iran holds about 5 billion tons of ornamental stone reserves, most of which are deemed to be unmatched worldwide in terms of color diversity and quality.
“This is while the country’s 6,000 stonemasonry units are unable to manufacture globally competitive products and reap the sector’s high potential value-added due to lack of access to processing machinery,” Sharifi added.
The expert called on the government to support the sector by providing producers with export incentives and awards, emphasizing that top stone exporters such as Italy rely on governmental support for gaining access to new export markets.
Iran exported $60 million worth of ornamental stones during the first three months of the current Iranian year (March 20-June 20).
The Stone Association of Iran intends to boost decorative stone exports to reach $2 billion per annum by the end of 2020.
Decorative stone exports were banned in 2006 as part of a move to put an end to sale of unprocessed minerals, which dealt a serious blow to the sector’s standing in international markets.
Although the measure was recently revoked for decorative stones, but experts believe that the sector has yet to regain the markets it has lost.
The Eighth Iran Stone Exhibition, also known as IRSE 2016, opened in Tehran on Monday. Some 40 firms from Italy, Germany, Spain, Turkey, India, Portugal, South Korea, China and Russia, alongside 210 domestic mining companies, are taking part in the four-day event to showcase their latest products and services related to stonecutting, stone quarry and mineral processing machinery.