February 26, 2007 BalochistanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s marble export
By Syed Fazl-e-Haider
MARBLE is an export-oriented sector. The estimated export of marble and granite products stood at $18 million during the first half 2006-07. Onyx-manufactured items worth $6.878 million were exported during July-December, 2006, an increase of 4.47 per cent over corresponding period last year.
According to one estimate, Balochistan has 90 per cent share in annual marble export. The province is rich in marble deposits. Marble is found at a number of localities in Labella, Khuzdar and Chaghi districts of the province. Onyx marble is being mined since 1950Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s in Chaghi district.
Onyx has great demand in international market for its vast applications and uses. According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics, export of onyx products during July-December, 2006 was 3,934 tonnes, as compared to 4,251 tonnes during the same period the previous year.
BalochistanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s share in marble production of the country is about 50 per cent. Out of the total production of around one million tons monthly, 0.3 million tons of Balochistan marble is daily shipped from Karachi to nearly 52 countries of the world.
The province has over 60 per cent beige colour marble deposits, which are being exported. Marble is mainly exported to US, Dubai, Korea and Bangladesh. European countries are still considered potential markets. Onyx marble from Chaghi can meet the international standards, if it is processed efficiently. The efficiency of marble processing industry depends on the quarry products. We can earn millions of dollars from export of this mineral by tapping world markets and improving quality by value addition and bringing down the extraction losses.
Balochistan is also a major producer of granite and onyx raw material but their deposits are yet to be assessed properly. The onyx products are part of marble and granite industry and its export has also increased significantly. According to statistics provided by the Pakistan Stone Development Company (PASDEC), the exports of the sector including marble, granite and onyx products amounted to $21 million in the fiscal year 2005-2006, which showed an increase of 28 per cent while comparing with FY 2004-2005.
The marble industry in this province is faced with many problems. Out of the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s total 1,095 units, Balochistan has only 60 small marble processing units. Marble sector must comprise a large number of mainly decentralised production units, which would mine a large variety of marble packs. A basic characteristic of these business units' structure must be the verticalisation of production (quarrying of marble, cutting and processing as well as the production of end products). These business units in the sector must have modern production facilities at their disposal and produce a diversified range of end products both in standard as well as in special dimension formats.
Generally, lease transfer of the mine becomes a problem for the people associated with the marble industry in Balochistan as mountains in the province are considered government property. According to the industry sources, the government offers lease of mine to investors with attached conditions.. Unlike Sindh and NWFP, lease is offered in Balochistan when a Sardar or a local native becomes the partner with the investor.
Marble industry lacks the technical facilities, as it has remained neglected. The industry directly depends on the marble quarries. The province has undeveloped and unsecured marble quarries due to which the industry has been losing business. Other problems include shortage of water supply and lack of sewerage system, electricity infrastructure, improper road network, telecom system and law and order.
Last year, President General Pervez Musharraf inaugurated the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœmarble cityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ at Gaddani and assured the manufacturers that mining would be undertaken by utilising the latest technologies to avoid wastages. About 300 units would be set up for the marble city on some 600 acres and investment is being made by expatriate Pakistanis from USA, Japan, Spain and the UAE.
The president also assured some other measures to help the marble industry, as it had failed to benefit from the marble boom. The government needs to develop processing centres with automatic tiling plants in the i marble city and the president had assured that the equipment would be imported for the purpose. The induction of modern technology in marble sector will increase efficiency of processing units.
Marble industry sources say that the government should evolve a marble policy envisaging sanction of mining leases to different private firms under soft terms and conditions. Prospecting licence may also be granted to the firms for ascertaining marble reserves in previously unexplored area in the province. Under the policy, private sector should be given incentives for making investment in the marble sector. The government must also ensure the security to investors and technology up-gradation through public and private sectors interventions.
Marble exports need better marketing. There is a need to monitor the international market and changing trends in demand and supply. Marble quality and demand in international market may be raised further using machines in polish work and marble cutting.