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IMIB: Turkey’s Export Booster

IMIBEnsconced in Alpine Belt, and with a four thousand years old stone industry, Turkey has continually hogged the top spot as the biggest marble and travertine exporter in the world. Endowed with world’s richest marble deposits, the country is home to probably the largest number of stone producers to whom Istanbul Mineral Exporters’ Association (IMIB) is the convener. Since 1976, the foundation year, the association coordinates all the export activities in mineral sector and escorts the stone enterprises to profitable yet sustainable international ventures. Stone and Tile in India Magazine, recently, had a direct tête-à-tête with Alı Kahyaoglu, Chairman, IMIB, where he expounded the express priorities of the association in particular, and Turkey stone industry in general.
Here are the extracts of the interview:
Stone and Tile in India: As a professional non-profit association, what are the major achievements of IMIB?

Ali Kahyaoglu: One of the most important achievement of IMIB is to create a significant growth in export levels by guiding the firms in the right directions and the right markets. In the last decade, the level of Turkey’s mineral exports drastically increased by 550 percent, and it doubled the growth rate of Turkey’s general export. One can clearly claim that this remarkable growth rate is the result of IMIB’s hard work.

STI: How is the Turkish stone industry different from the Indian stone industry? Can we say that the Turkish stone industry has achieved a sustainable competitive advantage over the Indian stone industry?

AK: There are many similarities between Turkish and Indian natural stones industries. The export levels of two countries verify this notion. Both Indian and Turkish natural stone exports have increased by 17 percent in 2013. Also, both India and Turkey are located on the Alpine-Himalayan orogenic belt and they produce similar natural stones So, it is hard to determine whether Turkey has achieved a sustainable competitive advantage over the Indian stone industry or not.

STI: From 2005 to 2011, the Turkish natural stone export has increased by 14.54 percent in quantity and 12.98 percent in value annually, which is equal to 7.28 million tonnes and USD 1.67 billion. What are the main factors behind the increase in Turkey’s natural stone export?

AK: Turkish natural stone sector has an important place in the world with its richness of variety, reserves, sector experience, abundance of raw materials, ease of shipment in sea transportation, its dynamic sector structure, the new technologies being utilized, and its broad color spectrum. One of the most important reason behind the growth rate is creating awareness of the quality of the Turkish natural stones. As a result , the demand to the Turkish stones steadily increased over the years and this is clearly reflected to the export levels. Turkey is number one country in the world with regard to the abundance and export of unique marble-travertine. Today, Turkish stones are used in numerous big and important works and projects.

STI: What makes China the biggest importer of Turkey’s stone?

AK: With over 80 types and 400 different colors and patterns, Turkey has one of the world’s largest natural stone reserves of excellent quality. It’s only natural to assume that the quality and the variety of the Turkish products attract the Chinese buyers.

STI: Do you think Turkey’s natural stone export to India will increase in years to come?

AK: India is one the most important designated export region for Turkey’s natural stone industry. Istanbul Mineral Exporters’ Association will attend the India Stone Mart 2015 exhibition and we hope to present our products to Indian buyers. But, the fixed block marble and travertine import quota at 600,000 tonnes per year is restricting further trade to the country. Several cartel companies in India benefit from this situation (artificial price increases due to quotas) and make profit, although there is strong demand for Turkish marbles.

Firms which form the cartel make attempts not to lose their high earnings by directly affecting import policy of India. Indian marble manufacturers and exporters have the right to import marble blocks (100,000 tonnes in a year), if they have foreign marble quarries. Indian marble cartels earn a lot of money by benefiting from import restrictions. At the same time, they are able to transport marble blocks directly to their companies. Shortly, Indian marble cartels do not leave a free area to Turkish marble manufacturers and exporters with this policy. But, we hope that Indiawill discontinue import licensing for marble and travertine blocks beyond 2014.

STI: Do you think the natural stone industry in Turkey currently uses state-of-the-art technology?

AK: In order to answer the increasing needs of the natural stone sector and to meet national and international demand, the Turkish natural stone industry has undergone a transformation process that puts forward innovative technological solutions which are economically viable. And, of course, this could not be achieved without the usage of state-of-the-art technology.

STI: Do you think the natural stone industry in Turkey needs to go for more research and development, and technology upgradation?

AK: Thanks to country’s unique geological structure, Turkey possess one of the richest natural stone reserves of all the world. But, the utilization of these valuable resources into economy is a great challenge. So, I believe natural stone industry will definitely benefit from further technological upgradation in the field of excavation.

STI: How environment friendly is the Turkish stone industry? What steps has it taken to reduce its negative impact on the environment?

AK: Turkey has one of the most strict regulations on environment protection. We are proud to say that Turkish natural stone industry is very environment friendly Moreover, regulations alone are not enough for environment protection. IMIB actively supports conversion of former quarries in to green areas.

STI: How beneficial have international stone fairs – like Marmomacc – been to the Turkish stone industry?

AK: The international fairs, like Marmomacc, provide unique opportunities to promote our products and to find potential new buyers for Turkish natural stones. The demand for natural stones are ever growing and it’s hard to keep track of it. But, thanks to international fairs like Marmomacc, we are able to be informed about the global trends in natural stones industry.

STI: What major challenges does the Turkish stone industry currently face? What are IMIB’s future targets?

AK: In recent years, in line with increasing demand and to meet existing potential, the government has streamlined and improved mining laws and regulations. However, a circular issued by the Prime Ministry in June 2012 has significantly slowed down the process through which a company can acquire a mining licence. Circular 2012/15(1) requires ministry approval for all transactions relating to state-owned lands. Following its enactment, in 2013, only 84 mining licences were granted out of a total 5,577 licence applications.

On the other hand, the slow down in economic growth in China is a possible threat to Turkish natural stone industry. 44 percent of Turkey’s natural stone export is to China, and a possible slow down on Chinese market would have a negative effect on export levels. But, we are confident that we can find alternative markets to compensate the losses.

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