First Half 2019

Hard-Surface Imports

Sea Change?

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen / Unsplash

The volume of hard-surfaces from across the Pacific changes
as a variety of new tariffs take effect.

By Emerson Schwartzkopf


Hard surfaces may not be the biggest battlefield in the U.S.-China trade war, but it's easy to read the casualty list.


The year-long dispute between the two countries is showing a marked decline from China -- the leading trade partner with the United States in hard surfaces -- in virtually every sector.


Tariffs, and not market demand, loom as the big reason behind the slower shipments. Natural-stone products are included in blanket 301 tariffs rolled out by the Trump administration.

And Chinese quartz surfaces -- the leading hard-surface import a year ago -- dropped dramatically with unfair-trade tariffs issued following a complaint by U.S. manufacturer Cambria.


Let's take a look at the numbers. The following information comes from information released by the USITC, along with analysis by Stone Update. (Comparisons with 2018 data are shown in parentheses.)


All charts are interactive. Click on the tabs to see 2019 and 2018 data; click on the chart bars to see a specific country's data.

Quartz Slab

Volume

TOTAL

62,871,025 ft² (-9.5%)


Sector Leader

India, 18,539,257 ft² (+497.5%)


The short-term window of no unfair-trade tariffs on Chinese quartz slabs pepped up the sector, as the country shipped 6.5 million ft² in May and June. It's a one-time boost; when the tariffs started again, China sent less than 12,000 ft² in July.


India continued its surge as the sector leader, with triple-digit growth from first-half 2018 also coming from Turkey, Italy, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany and Belgium.

Value

TOTAL

$512,740,451 (-8.8%)


Sector Leader

Spain, $128,366,352 (+20.9%)


The May-June bump of Chinese quartz imports added $45 million that won't be seen again as large tariffs take hold.


The countries with large volume gains also brought new money into the mix. The biggest jump came from Taiwan, which shipped less than $103,000 in first-half 2018 and $8.2 million this year.

Worked Granite

Volume

TOTAL

713,425 metric tons (+13.0%)


Sector Leader

Brazil, 340,851 metric tons (+16.6%)


Granite continued its bull run in 2019, finishing the first half with solid gains of 9% or more for the top five countries exporting to the United States. Much like quartz slabs -- but not due to tariff byplay -- China offered a strong upsurge in granite shipments during May and June.

Value

TOTAL

$401,867,304 (-1.0%)


Sector Leader

Brazil, $200,707,720 (+11.3%)


It's a replay of this year's first quarter; granite tonnage increased by double-digits, but values didn't move up (in fact, there's a decrease of 1%).


Brazil closed the Misery Gap -- the difference between volume and value -- by more than half from the first quarter. China, meanwhile, sent 10.3% more in granite to the United States this January-June than the same time last year ... but values decreased by an astonishing 21.9%

Worked Marble

Volume

TOTAL

229,978 metric tons (+0.8%)


Sector Leader

Turkey, 76,043 metric tons (-7.0%)


Marble shipments to the United States remained the same in first-half 2019; OK, about 1.8 metric tons more showed up at ports-of-entry through this June.


Credit the status-quo number to India; its 18% gain in this year's first half offset declines by sector leaders Turkey and Italy.

Value

TOTAL

$236,590,903 (-1.6%)


Sector Leader

Italy, $104,482,630 (+0.1%)


China's shipments in January-June 2019 dropped 23.8% ($10 million) from last year, canceling out good double-digit growth this year from India and Brazil. And that 0.1% growth from Italy only comes because of rounding up -- the actual spread from 2018 is less than $90,000.