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STONA 2014: Giving a Fillip to Stone Industry

InaugrationOrganised by All India Granites and Stone Association (AIGSA), STONA 2014 – the 11th international granites and stone fair – was held last February at Bangalore International Exhibition Centre, Bangalore. It showcased a wide variety of exquisite natural stones from different countries, leading manufacturers, retailers and dealers of stone industry. The expo demonstrated the capability and capacity of Indian entrepreneurs and the state-of-the-art equipment being used in the industry.
The fair was held covering a gross area of 45,000 sq. m. and stall area (net) of around 22,000 sq. m. occupied by about 575 exhibitors – 150 foreign and 425 Indian exhibitors. Forty-two artisans from various states participated in the fair under Shilpagram – the artisan development programme of AIGSA – and demonstrated their artistic skills to the visitors. More than 30,000 visitors visited the fair on all the four days, out of which about 4,000 were overseas visitors. For the first time, a delegation of 30 buyers from African countries visited India and was able to see what India could offer to construction industry.
The aim of STONA is to give the natural stone industry in India a significant growth opportunity with higher visibility, a professional-oriented visitor profile and extremely efficient business development modules. Both national and international stone industry players participate in this event as exhibitors and visitors. This event gives an excellent and unique opportunity to stone entrepreneurs to showcase their products in an increasingly competitive environment and interact with representatives of the Italian, Chinese, Turkish, Egyptian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and other European stone industries.
The first STONA exhibition was held in 1987, and since then STONA has been serving as a window on India’s natural stones, products and the creative ability to make and supply different stone products and technologies – from slab, tiles, artifacts, landscaping, paving, dimensional blocks and cylindrical pillars to machinery and equipment. This exhibition has been highly instrumental in enabling the Indian stone industry to grow in an increasingly competitive world.
It may be mentioned that AIGSA is a prime body of the natural stone industry in India. It has representation from all sectors of natural stone industry, that is, quarrying, processing, machinery, tools, abrasives, resins, etc., with representation extending all over India. The principal objective of the Association is promotion of natural stone industry to the benefit of its members and the nation. It strives to act as a bridge between the industry and the government in bringing constant improvement in mineral regulation, policies, processes, systems and procedures. In addition, it makes special efforts to promote upgradation of technology aimed at mine safety, productivity, cost-efficiency and quality improvement.

J B SuranaVoicing Concerns

Delivering his inaugural address at the event, Mr. J. B. Surana, President, AIGSA, said, “Bangalore is famously known as ‘Garden City’, ‘IT Capital’ and ‘Medical Hub of India.’ Bangalore has contributed a lot to the development of granite industry. It will not be out of place to add Bangalore as ‘Granite City’ of the country in our list. Bangalore has a long history and the privilege of hosting the first STONA exhibition in Asia in 1987. When AIGSA held the first STONA fair, India’s export of rough dimensional blocks totalled Rs 50 crore. After ten STONA fairs, the country’s export of rough blocks and finished goods crossed the Rs 9,000 crore mark after value addition. This is what STONA has helped us to achieve in the past.

“We have with us for the first time a strong contingent of delegates from African countries to visit STONA. A strong contingent of exhibitors from China and Turkey is also part of STONA. We have exhibitors from all over India and overseas to showcase their granite, marble and stone slate machinery and tools. Shilpa Gram – a dream project of AIGSA to help promote and develop artisans from all over India and artifacts from Sikandra, near Jaipur – is an added attraction to STONA 2014.

“India is a treasure trove of natural resources and probably India has the largest granite deposit in the world. India accounts for 25 per cent of the total reserves of marble, granite and stone slate; India possesses 1,619 million cubic metres of deposit, comprising 160 shades of stone. At present, we are utilising only 3 per cent of the available resources and there is much more to explore as far as the stone industry in India is concerned. States such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Haryana are leading in the production of natural stone. There is a huge potential for development in states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Gujarat and many other states in North-East India. Karnataka has a long history of production and export of granite in the country. Unfortunately, the export of natural stone has come down drastically because of retrograde policies. Many quarries have been closed in Kanakapura, Chamaraj-nagar…causing disturbance to the growth of the industry, and each sector has its own problem to narrate.”

Requesting the Chief Minister to form a committee to settle long-pending issues and grievances of the mining industry in the state, Mr. Surana said, “States like Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have evolved positive policies towards the industry and adapted to the changing scenario. The growth of the industry in these two states is on account of their positive policy. Rajasthan levies a VAT of 5 per cent on finished goods whereas in our state, we have a VAT of 14.5 per cent. We request our honourable Chief Minister to kindly consider a favourable policy in the coming budget session to help the industry. If the industry grows, there would be employment; there would be more revenue for the state. Further, there is a long-pending demand from the quarry sector to reduce its royalties to help the state’s mining and processing industry. The cost is increasing day by day and it is imposing a heavy burden on the industry and that ultimately results in slowing down export from our state.

“The industry in southern states in India has been deprived of import of granite and marble blocks due to their restrictive Exim policy as well as the quota and license systems, and this has adversely affected the processing industry and the consumer in the South. The new Exim policy is under preparation for 2014-19, and we request that concerned authorities of Government of Karnataka shall take note of our request and incorporate and recommend a positive policy to help the industry in Karnataka. India has acquired the latest technology to meet the growing demand both on the domestic and international markets, and our quality is at par with international quality. With this growing demand, there is a huge shortage of raw material. So we request our honourable Chief Minister to see to it that as many pending quarry applications as possible are cleared immediately to help the industry. The industry is facing an acute shortage of raw materials with the growth of the process industry. There are many factors contributing to the shortage of raw material, which include stoppage of quarrying activities due to the declaration of eco-sensitive zone around reserved forests, national park and wildlife sanctuaries, conversion of revenue land into reserve forest category without considering the growth activities, non-renewable of quarry leases, delay in granting the first leases and the restrictive policy of the Government of India. If the industry has to cope with the growing demand, the government has to liberalise the policy to help the industry in its development.

“The time has come to create a mineral zone of the natural resources in each state. Natural resources should be available freely to the industry without any restrictions. Under the mining zone, mining activities should be allowed freely, without any external interference. While major mineral leases are being granted over thousands of acres inside the reserved forest area, minor mineral leases are not being granted in the forest area… . A single window system should be created for clearing the lease applications on a first-come, first-served basis within the time frame. The auction system is not a substitute for the allotment of mining/quarrying leases against the traditional system of first-come, first-served basis. The auction system will prove costly for the industry because one who bids the highest amount has to recover the money in a short time, and this will result in a higher cost of raw material to the industry. Further, in the auction system, only the corporates with deep pockets can participate. However, in the first-come, first-served arrangement, even a common man can start mining activities in the village area where the mineral resources are available abundantly.

“A level playing field should also be created for the entire stone industry for its faster growth keeping in view the global scenario. A few important steps need to be taken. First, granite should be declared as a major mineral. Second, there should be a uniform policy for all types of natural dimensional stone in the country. Third, import of granite and marble should be brought under OGL to fill the gap between demand and supply of rough dimensional block and increase the export by value addition. Fourth, the import and export activity should be liberalised and free. Let the market forces decide what is good for the industry instead of creating quota and license systems. The quota and license systems are relics of the past in India and such systems will isolate India from the rest of the world. These policies impose a heavy cost-burden on consumers, because they are made to pay a high price, and so they should be discouraged.

“If all our recommendations are considered favourably, the industry will grow considerably in the coming decades and our export will move from Rs 9,000 crore to 12,000 crore in the coming years.”

R VeeramaniClearance for Raw Material

Speaking at the event, Mr. R. Veeramani, Founder President, AIGSA, and President, Granite, Natural Stones & Products Panel, CAPEXIL (Export Promotion Council) said, “Stone is one of the products that CAPEXIL currently handles. After iron ore industry, stone industry is the industry that exports the largest quantity of material, but in a different form. We do not export material in the raw form. Around 80 per cent of our material is exported in the value-added form – in the branded form. We don’t export just the blocks. We export tiles, surface plates, building slabs and cut-to-sizes for projects. So this is a specialty industry. India is one of the few countries that deliver branded stone – be it marble, granite or sandstone. Also, architects around the world retain the names of our brands.

“In our country 15 lakh people are directly working in the quarries and the industry as a whole. Unskilled, semi-skilled and top-skilled people are all part of the industry. We can raise exports from $1.8 billion to $5 billion provided we make the raw material available for the industry by granting leases and renewables on a time-bound basis. Time is important to us, as we have to complete various projects on time. China is exporting stone worth $5 billion. It has taken the entire market of India in Japan… 98 per cent of the market in Japan has been taken over by China. We originally enjoyed around 50 per cent of it and today our share is only 1-2 per cent. We have lost 60 per cent of the market. Therefore, to make our position stronger on the market, we need quick raw material clearances – time-bound clearances. If this happens, we will surely bring laurels to our state.

“Incidentally, Karnataka is the first state to get environment clearances for the stone industry in the state. We are also willing to join hands with the government in contributing towards rural development.”

SiddaramaiahRoyalty, Lease and Government Support

After releasing the STONA Exhibitors’ Directory, Mr. Siddaramaiah, Chief Minister of Karnataka, said, “AIGSA is the only national-level body working for the interest of the natural stone industry in the country for the past 32 years. I appreciate the service of the Association for the development of the Indian stone industry.

“Karnataka has a vast granite deposit… . The state stands in the number one position in granite deposit in the country. The various colours of granite available in Karnataka have been well accepted all over the world and the state’s black granite has been adjudged the best in the world… . Taking note of the availability of granite in Karnataka, our government has already announced creation of a granite park in Chamarajanagar district, which will be a reality in the near future. Our government will also consider the establishment of granite clusters in different parts of the state… .

“The government of Karnataka has been supporting STONA since 1996. The growth of the industry can certainly be attributed to STONA fairs. STONA 2014 is expected to generate an additional business of about Rs 1,000 crore in the coming years.

“Our government will fix up minimum royalty per sawing machine per year. We welcome discussions in this regard to fix up suitable minimum royalty per machine depending upon capacity of sawing of the slabs per granite block. We are aware that granite is a natural product and that the entire granite block cannot be used to make slabs. We shall ensure that royalty is fixed at such a level that benefits the industry and adds to government revenue. Royalty must be fixed based on sawing of machine depending upon granite hardness. I request all members of the granite industry to adopt scientific methods for the quarrying process without polluting the environment. We are also willing to grant long-term granite quarry lease with automatic renewable for three terms as per KMMC rules and remove bottlenecks in granting of quarry lease. A proposal has been received from mining and granite industry for demarcation of areas as granite area and main area similar to demarcation of land as forest land and revenue land. We shall examine the proposal and inform the industry stakeholders of our stand shortly.

“There is already a value-added tax exemption for 100 per cent export-oriented units. Royalty on rough blocks needs to be paid. In case any assistance pertaining to the mining and processing industries is required to be taken up with the union government level, feel free to approach us so that we can extend full support from our side. Granite and other stones can be termed as green products, and I request you all to quarry granite scientifically and utilise it to its maximum capacity. I’m told that the Association has already purchased land…worth Rs 35 crore for research and development activities to start a training institute, testing centre and other projects. I extend my wishes to the Association and ensure full cooperation and support from our government.”

Seminars and Awards

On 13 February 2014, a seminar on the topic “Presentation on Natural Stone in Architecture” was conducted at the venue. The seminar was inaugurated by Mr. Uday K., Principal Chief Architect, Government of Karnataka. Mr. Vidyadhar. S. Wodeyar, Chairman, Indian Institute of Architects, Karnataka, was the chairperson of the technical session.

During the technical sessions, Mr. Kamal Malik, Malik Architecture, Mumbai, presented a paper on the topic, “Natural Stone in Building Industry” and Mr. Marco Antonio Ragone, IMM Carrara, Italy, presented a paper on the topic, “Innovative Use of Stone in Modern Architecture.”

The conference was well attended by architects from various parts of the country and proved to be very useful for them.

On 14 February 2014, Dr. N. R. Ramesh, Additional Director General and HOD, Remote Sensing and Arial Surveys, Geological Survey of India, Bangalore, inaugurated a seminar on the topic, “Geology and Mining”. Mr. R. H. Sawkar, Secretary, Geological Society of India, Bangalore, and Dr. K. C. Chandrasekhaiah, Additional Deputy Director General, Geological Society of India, Bangalore, were the chairpersons.

Dr. T.N. Venugopal, Joint Director (retired), Department of Mines & Geology, Bangalore; Dr. K.V. Krishna Murthy Director, Geological Survey of India, Bangalore; and Mr. Prasanna Srinivaan, Vice President, Dev Global Impex Trading LLC Bangalore, presented information-loaded papers during the seminar, which was well attended by the delegates/geologists from various state governments.

Dr. T. N. Venugopal presented a paper on the topic, “Rules and Regulations on Minor Minerals with Particular Reference to Ornamental Stones.” His paper presentation was followed by a paper presentation by Dr. K.V. Krishna Murthy on the topic, “Recent Development in Environmental Aspects on Ornamental Stones.” Mr. Prasanna Srinivaan presented a paper on the topic, “International Trade – Latest Developments.”

The valedictory function was held on 15th February 2014. Mr. K. H. Muniyappa, Hon’ble Minister of State of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Independent Charge), Government of India, was the Chief Guest; and Mr. R.K. Sharma, Secretary General, FIMI, Delhi, was the Guest of Honour. During the valedictory function, the logo of Federation of Indian Granite and Stone Industry (FIGSI) was released.

On this occasion, model granite and marble quarry awards were presented as follows:

▶ FIMI-AIGSA Model Granite Quarry Awards for the years 2012 and 2013

M/s. Anand Granite Exports Private Limited, Ongole, Andhra Pradesh

M/s. Pokarna Limited, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh

M/s. SVG Exports Private Limited, Chamrajanagar, Karnataka

M/s. Sonu Granites, Jalore, Rajasthan

M/s. Sapphire Stones, Jalore, Rajasthan

▶ FIMI-AIGSA-CDOS Model Marble Quarry Awards for the years 2012 and 2013

M/s. D. K. Trivedi & Sons, Ambaji, Gujarat

M/s. Agarwal Marble Centre Private Limited, Jaipur, Rajasthan

M/s. Shubh Shree Marble Mines, Jaipur, Rajasthan

M/s. Maruti Impex, Jaipur, Rajasthan

M/s. Vineet Udyog Limited, Udaipur, Rajasthan

All the sponsors of STONA 2014 were also felicitated on this occasion.

The exhibitors and visitors were quite satisfied with the arrangements made at the fair; and, from the feedback received from the exhibitors, there was good response from overseas buyers to their stall, and good business enquiries were received.

Stone 2014 Colarge

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