2018: A New Leader (but not for long)

A short reign for quartz surfaces.

Did quartz surfaces overtake granite as the leading hard-surface import in the United States in 2018? Yes.

Will quartz surfaces be #1 on the list this year? No.

The ongoing battle over Chinese quartz surfaces and unfair-trade tariffs led to an incredible boom-and-bust cycle for the sector in 2018. It's a developing story that we're following at www.stoneupdate.com, but it's also one of the biggest developments in reporting last year's U.S. hard-surface imports.

Cover photo by Jonas Blatterman

There's other news in all the import data amassed last year by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). Stone Update sifted through the numbers and find the facts that matter as part of an annual analysis of materials coming through U.S. ports-of-entry. All of it can be viewede on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. (Some charts will need the ol’ finger-pinch expansion on mobiles; some are interactive.)

Because of various ways of measuring product volume, we can’t produce a total weight of dimensional hard surfaces coming into the United States in 2018. We can put a price tag on it – or at least a dollar figure using declared customs values.

For those looking for the big number, all of the dimensional natural stone and quartz surfaces entering the United States totaled $3,264,200,883. However, it surpassed 2017 by only 1.6% ... and, for reasons that numbers on upcoming pages will reveal, 2018 may be a high-water mark that won't be topped in the next few years.

This is an interactive chart. Desktop/laptop users can move a cursor over an unlabeled area to see hidden totals. Mobile users can touch the bars on the graph to get the numbers. Source: U.S International Trade Commission, Stone Update analysis

U.S. Imports: Total Hard Surfaces

(millions U.S. dollars)

Before getting into individual sectors, a few definitions are in order.

• For each category (except quartz surfaces), the data represents total dimensional surfaces ready for fabrication and/or installation. This includes slabs and may include smaller cut pieces of a particular surface. The Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) that classifies all U.S. imports goes into varying degrees of detail, and the analysis is adjusted accordingly. What’s not counted are manufactured products such as statuary or mosaics, nor are powders and other crushed products.

• Quartz surfaces gets separate treatment under the HTS as slab products only. It’s also measured in volume by square meters (converted for U.S. readers to square feet) instead of weight.

• “Worked” for granite and marble represents material that’s cut with one side polished, as defined in the HTS. That means the data excludes rough boulders and sawn blocks. The amount of rough/block granite shipped to the United States is insignificant – usually less than 3% of total granite imports – but the percentage is higher for marble for its use in statuary and other art. Using the “worked” data parallels the use of the surfaces by U.S. fabrication facilities.

• “Value” in all instances refers to the declared customs value of shipments arriving at U.S. ports-of-entry. These numbers are used for duty assessment by the United States. It’s the lowest value the surfaces will have and are in no way comparable to eventual wholesale or retail costs. However, the numbers offer a consistent way to measure perceived value by importers.

Thanks for your interest. For reporting on import data throughout 2019, be sure to follow us at stoneupdate.com and magazine.stonemag.com.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

Editor & Publisher

Stone Update Magazine

All data drawn from data sources at the U.S. International Trade Commission and analysis by Stone Update, unless otherwise noted.