Ceramic tiles supply turns to exports

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Thursday, 27 October 2016

China’s demand for ceramic tiles is shrinking as the industry will increasingly rely on other markets including Vietnam, India and Brazil to drive consumption in the coming years.

Global output of ceramic tiles has remained flat throughout 2015 but patterns of consumption and production shares have seen meaningful change, as emerging destinations in Asia increase their weight as both producers and consumers, according to data shown at Tecnargilla 2016 in Rimini, Italy.

Ceramic tiles production remained unchanged at 12.36m sq metres last year against 2014 (-0.1%), following a decade of continuous growth, according to figures from the Association of Italian Manufacturers of Machinery and Equipment for Ceramics (ACIMAC) released during the event.

At the same time, the production landscape has changed, as historic producing countries lose ground against newer origins.

Global tile consumption grew 0.8% to 12.18m sq mt in 2015.

"Production and consumption don’t coincide anymore," Paolo Gambulli, ACIMAC president, told delegates in Rimini. "There is a clear diverging trend that is gathering pace between suppliers and consumers. Demand is moving outside traditional production hubs."

As of 2015, Asia accounted for 70% of global production (some 8.3m sq mt), followed by the EU and Latin America with 10% each.

Within Asia, China alone produced 48% of global volumes, equivalent to 6m sq mt ceramic tiles. The rest of Asia’s output is split between India (7%, or 850,000 sq mt), Vietnam (4%), Indonesia (3%) and Iran (2%).

China and India are respectively the largest and third-largest producers. In second place is Brazil, with 899,000 sq mt produced in 2015, and a 7% share of world production.

The main European producing countries include Spain (440,000 sq mt) and Italy (395,000 sq mt). Output in the EU grew 2.2% last year, but demand did not follow.

Consumption moves east

Consumption rates used to broadly follow the pattern of production, with the main supplying countries also being some of the largest consumers.

Although in terms of large geographical regions this is hard to single out, signs of evolution in demand are nonetheless noticeable between countries, Gambulli said.

Asia consumed 67% of global production last year. China took the bulk of this volume, but its prominence has shrunk and is expected to continue to do so.

 "China’s growth slowed down following the decrease in construction rate, but its balance is still active," Gambulli said.

Citing strong growth in India and Vietnam, among other Asian markets, he added: "We will see less and less of China within the Asian tile importing market [as other destinations expand].

"Look at India, Vietnam but also Brazil – this is where the sector will be moving in the coming years."

The European scenario is also evolving, as the economic struggles of the Eurozone have affected appetite for real estate, leading to a drop in demand for tiles – which has been particularly noticeable in Spain, Italy and France but also Portugal, Greece and other countries.

With domestic consumption slipping, this has partially contributed to push local suppliers to pursue international selling opportunities.

The current export/production rate is 22% – a figure that Gambulli described as "remarkable, if we think that ceramic tiles are heavy and thus do not have a tendency for exports".

According to ACIMAC, this pattern is bound to continue in the coming years, due to macroeconomic reasons of growth and demographic expansion.

Ceramic tiles are manufactured from a number of mineral raw materials including talc, calcium carbonate, feldspar, kaolin, quartz, wollastonite and zircon.

World production of ceramic tiles 
Source: Association of Italian Manufacturers of Machinery and
Equipment for Ceramics (ACIMAC)

World consumption of ceramic tiles 
Source: Association of Italian Manufacturers of Machinery and
Equipment for Ceramics (ACIMAC)

Share of global ceramic tiles consumption 
Source: Association of Italian Manufacturers of Machinery and
Equipment for Ceramics (ACIMAC)