Travertine: Left Behind?

When will the free fall stop?

There’s no way to disguise travertine’s poor performance in the U.S. import market in 2017. While dropping 22% in volume from 2016 is bad enough, last year’s 336,877 metric tons shipped stateside shows a decline of 53.4% from 2015.

Unlike other surface categories, travertine is dominated by one country. Turkey regularly accounts for two-thirds of U.S. travertine imports; when it stumbles, the whole sector takes a fall.

Turkey seemed to find good footing in the market by mid-decade, sending 620,167 metric tons to the United States in 2015. Since then, it’s been a fast tumble, with last year’s 322,483 metric tons registering a 60% three-year slide.

It’s also more than a boom-and-bust pattern, as shipments systematically decline. From April 2013 to February 2016, Turkey used to ship at least 30,000 every month, with some months reaching as high as 70,000 metric tons. Last year, Turkey shipped less than 25,000 metric tons in 10 out of 12 months, and dropped below 15,000 metric tons last December.

Predictably, U.S. travertine import values took a hit in 2017, with the $165.6 million representing the lowest annual total since 1999. It’s a long, long way down from the all-time high of $547 million in 2006.

The value-per-ton of travertine imports also shows the surface’s weakness in maintaining share and value in U.S. imports. Only two countries – China and Peru – show higher VPTs in 2017 from five years ago. And Turkey’s exceptional year of shipments in 2015 also shows a VPT of $306.11, far below last year’s $446.72.