KARACHI: Pakistan has one of the world's best marble reserves, but has not been able to utilise the natural resource and has a share of only 0.09 per cent in the world market. However, India is among world's top seven natural stone exporters with which Pakistan has no collaboration despite a huge potential.
All Pakistan Marble Industries Association (APMIA) Chairman M Haroon Rashid made these observations while talking to The News.
Rashid, sitting in a big office inside his factory in the city, said marble exports quadrupled in the last four to five years and reached $34 million last year. Hopefully, the figure would cross $40 million this year.
Marble is one of seven natural stones which have a massive demand in the world market. Onyx is an expensive kind of marble found in abundance in Pakistan. Marble is a unique natural resource which the nature has bestowed on the country. "It is found all over the country with over one billion tons of proven reserves, according to surveys conducted by respectable organisations," he said.
Rashid, who ran the biggest marble plant of the country which accounts for 11 per cent of total exports of the stone, believed collaboration in the marble sector could boost output and strengthen industrial base of both India and Pakistan.
India is far ahead in the marble sector if compared with Pakistan and if Delhi and Islamabad collaborate, both will benefit from each other's natural resources. India has many successful joint ventures with Italy, a country which produces world's best marble machinery, and can offer tremendous technical assistance to Pakistan while Pakistan can offer its best marble to India. Indian technical expertise can help Pakistan in broadening the base of marble industry while proximity between Karachi and Mumbai also offers a huge potential for trade and investment.
"Pakistan has some of the best stone colours that India can import. Besides there will also be no language barrier as in the case of Italians," he added.
Rashid, co-owner of Marmonyx (Pvt) Ltd, said marble exports of Pakistan had been increasing continuously despite a financial crunch in recent times. "Each year fresh growth is seen and new marble colours are coming in from new sites of the country while the private sector is busy in finding new markets and increasing access to potential markets."
China is the biggest marble exporter of the world followed by Turkey, Italy and Spain. The All Pakistan Marble Industries Association looks after four sub-sectors which are mining, manufacturing, exports and imports and has around 800 members all over Pakistan, of which 150 to 200 are from Karachi. Karachi is the port city and is located close to Balochistan, home to a number of marble factories and display centres.
Citing an example of Turkey, he said its marble exports were worth $40 million in 1994, where Pakistan stood today, but recently Turkey was able to boost exports to $2 billion and "now it targets $3 billion".
The reason behind that success was government planning and focus on two important sectors - a strong industrial base and better raw material extraction, he said, adding Turkey was also successful in improving its light engineering sector and "is now producing small and big marble machines".
With more quarries coming up in Pakistan, Rashid said, the sector was growing but government incentives were insignificant compared with other sectors. With increase in oil prices, energy tariffs and load-shedding, the cost of manufacturing had increased, affecting the industry, he added.
He said Pakistan Stone Development Company (PASDEC) was established to develop stones and not industries but both had critical importance in the progress of marble sector. "The Ministry of Industries needs to step up efforts to widen the industrial base of the sector which has immense potential."
Since Pakistan sat on huge reserves of high-quality marble with unique and highly-demanded colours, he said, a centralised system was needed where public and private sectors could collaborate. It took at least one or two years for a marble stone and shade to reach the stage of recognition in markets, so Pakistan should accelerate the pace of opening new quarries besides developing a strong manufacturing base, he added.
The marble sector needed both short and long-term plans and could not produce results in a year or two. It needed at least three years for the first plan. "I think Pakistan can easily make exports of $100 million in few years from current $34 million. But it will take at least eight years to touch $1 billion mark provided we plan and execute it," he predicts.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
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