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PRODUCT SPECIALISATION AND FOREIGN MARKETS: THE OBJECTIVES OF THE MARBLE PROCESSING MACHINE SECTOR
Even greater product specialisation, a new price policy and rationalisation of the approach to markets” are the levers that Italian marble processing machinery producers have used to deal with the global economic crisis, according to Flavio Marabelli, honorary president of the Italian marble machinery trade association. “At the government level,” continues Marabelli, “the fundamental push to emerge from the crisis was the one made together with Confindustria and Federmacchine to obtain a law, called TremontiTer, providing tax exemption for investments in new machinery and equipment. We are hoping that it will be extended until the end of 2010.”
Exports are a centrally important issue for the marble processing machinery division. “Italy has always been and still is the leading country in technology for extracting and processing marble, and natural stone in general,” emphasises Marabelli. “This leadership has brought Italian constructors to be present in every part of the world, with a propensity towards exports quantifiable at 65% of the overall product. To safeguard the leadership of Italian production in the sector we have created a trademark to identify authentic Italian marble machinery in the markets, the MARMO MACCHINE MARK.”
In its international dimension, the crisis has obviously had a significant impact on the exports of marble firms, with a drop of 32% in 2009 compared with the previous year, a significant decrease, even if less dramatic than those recorded in other sectors. The consequences of the credit crunch, however, have also caused an interesting and large-scale restructuring of reference markets. As the Italian marble machinery trade association study centre underlined in its reports, “the United States, which, at least until 2007, had always been the first and best market for Italian producers of machines, equipment, tools and consumables for stone processing, has dropped inexorably to fifth place in the rankings of main buyer countries.” In addition, exports to two other leading markets for Italian products, Russia and India, are also in decline.
At the same time, however, the rise of a new leading customer has been noted. “The leading market for 2009 is, in fact, Egypt, with an overall import of Italian technologies worth almost 42 million Euros.” In second place is Algeria, “which reached a notable 140% increase in purchases in purchases of Italian technologies,” according to the study centre, while in third place is Saudi Arabia. “Perhaps due in part to a surge in significant investments in construction, aimed at transforming the urban structure of the country over the next years, it has made a 26% increase in purchases of Italian machinery, amounting to a value of over 35 million Euros in imports.” In fourth place is China, with an increase of around 40% in imports of Italian stone technologies, whereas downturns were noted in all the main European markets.
The drastic changes in export geography place the sector in front of a decidedly stimulating challenge. “The positive aspect of a crisis like this, which defies all expectations, is precisely that it has done away with established modes of thinking and dealing with markets,” Marabelli points out. “It has obliged companies to rethink their own commercial policies, produce new solutions and find new dynamics and promotional networks. Our fortune is that Italian companies have always been masters at renewing themselves and inventing new ways of doing business.” This capacity for innovating and renewing themselves will also be crucial for the marble sector in the coming months. According to the president of the Italian marble machinery trade association, “2010 will certainly continue to be a difficult year, but we expect an increase in the signs of recovery that were seen in the first half of the year. The path to emerge from the crisis is still long and not without dangers, especially for makers of instrumental goods. Therefore foreign collaboration in the area of professional promotion and training, developed with the Italian Trade Commission, the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will still be fundamental, and as an association we hope to repeat the excellent results already reached in this area in previous years.”