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Optimism grows to show up marble and granite export prospects

In Pakistan, marble and granite sector despite having abundant reserves of 30 billion tons have been operating in an unorganized manner, while primitive quarrying and processing methods are the reasons sector that could not reap its true export potential. There are over 3,000 processing units and 1,500 quarries across the country. The sector employs over 200,000 people but could only fetch US$61 million (2017) mostly through export of raw marbles and granites. Though efforts have been made in the past to uplift the sector and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) also offered refinance facilities, however, all these efforts have not been materialized truly and the sector remains unattractive for being mostly undocumented trade. Despite having one of the largest reserves in the world the sector could not grow and realize its true potential as yet due to following reasons:

  • Uncontrolled blasting
  • Limited mechanized mining
  • Outdated processing standards
  • Wastage of 70% through-out the value chain
  • Insignificant value addition

Most of the marble, granite and onyx taken out in Pakistan are consumed domestically in the shape of tiles, kitchen tops and other decorative products. The rest are exported in the shape of slabs in raw or semi-finished forms.

Main issues being faced by the industry are:

  • Limited avenues of funding source.
  • No structured government initiative and policies for the sector.
  • No official quality certification and testing facilities available.
  • Lack of innovation and research within the sector.
  • Lack of government initiatives to support for finished product export.

Local demand & export prospects:

Main industries related to the marble and granite sectors are:

  • Construction – where marbles are used in vast quantity
  • Architecture & interior design
  • Sculptures & decorative stones
  • Tiles & mosaic
  • Marble powder (agriculture; paint & coating; lime & chalk; animal feed)

Pakistan’s marble & granite sector is driven by local consumption and is highly dependent on the domestic consumption for marble products and construction industry. Recent positive development in declaring construction as an industry by the government, offering all sorts of tax incentives to stimulate the overall economy is sure to bring fruits for the marble and granite sector. Further, government has also announced its low-cost big housing projects. In view of that near-term prospects of sector look promising besides tapping the export market through value addition rather than exporting raw.
Marble industry promises high growth potential as Pakistan has the one of the highest minable reserves of dimensional stones with rare colors. With better quarrying techniques, marble industry will be able to provide higher supplier and export prospects of raw, semi-finished and finished products. The main destination country for our raw and semi-finished marble export is China, absorbing 81 percent of our raw blocks and slabs. Our finished marble and marble products are mostly exported to the Gulf countries.

Geographical location:

Major Clusters of Quarrying

  • Balochistan — Chagi, Khuzdar, Mastung, Loralai, Lasbella, Zhob
  • KPK/FATA — Buner, Swat, Mansehra, Noshera, Mardan, Mohmand Khyber, Bajour
  • Gilgit-Baltistan — Chitral, Ghizher, Hunza, Shighar

Minor Clusters:

  • Sindh — Nagarparker, Thatta
  • Punjab — Mansehra, Khushab
  • Azad Jammu & Kashmir — Neelam Valley, Muzaffarabad

Quarrying Segment is mostly run in an unorganized fashion, people engaged in quarrying may or may not be the original lease holder, it is given on sub-lease as well and sometimes changes number of hands. The quarrying method used in Pakistan is largely opposite to the modern techniques which consists of drilling holes around the optimal block size and then use hydraulic jacks and splitting equipment to draw the block out of the bed rock. The block size and shape of the rocks are thus more controlled/standardized and the wastages minimized to less than 7 percent from 70 percent of the blasting method.

Processing and Export Businesses are mostly located in urban centers of the country such are Karachi; Lahore; Rawalpindi/Islamabad and Peshawar. Out of 3,000 processing businesses, a sizeable number is based in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi/Islamabad. Most of them making products for local consumption or exporting raw or semi-finished to Middle East countries and China.

There are over 300 processing units in Karachi, many of them are involved in exports as well. Rawalpindi 201 units, Islamabad 174 units, Lahore 96 units, Peshawar 45 units, Quetta 18 units, Faisalabad 2 units and Noshehra 5 units. Besides there are sizable number of units in FATA area as well. However, organized large set ups are mostly located in Karachi- Rawalpindi & Islamabad.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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