The Stone and Marble Industry
The stone and marble industry in Palestine is one of the most important and supportive sectors of the Palestinian economy. It is also one of the conventional and historic industries. All researchers agree that the Palestinian stone is distinguished for its type, quality and diverse colours.
Economic Indicators The Palestinian stone production is the 12th largest in the world and the annual production of finished stone and marble is 16 million square metres, equal to 1.8 million tons. Industry experts estimate annual sales at around $400 million, but according to the Palestinian Union of Stone & Marble Industry (USM) the turnover may be as high as $600 million. These figures suggest that the Palestinian stone and marble industry is significant not only by local standards, but also globally. Furthermore, the industry is important for employment generation, already employing more than 15,000 workers. The sector’s contribution to the Palestinian economy can also be expressed in terms of total national production. This sector contributes approximately 25% to Palestine’s overall industrial revenues, making up 4.5% of the Gross National Product (GNP) and 5.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Israeli-imposed closures and curfews, the Apartheid Wall and the instability of the political situation since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada have negatively affected the stone and marble industry by decreasing production and sales by half. The years 2004 and 2005, however, have registered an improvement over the previous years.
Markets and Products In addition to the local market, the largest share of products goes to Israel. Another part is exported to international markets such as America, China, France, the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. The industry is continually seeking to penetrate new markets and open new marketing channels. It is clear that the potential for Palestinian stone and marble products is high and opportunities abound in various markets according to the trends in each and every one. The products range from slabs (blocks cut by a gang saw into slabs of different thickness according to needs) to tiles and building stones. These are the traditional product of the majority of stone and marble facilities in Palestine and are divided into the following shapes: headstones; decorative and ornamental products; kitchen and counter tops; and blocks. All product lines can be sold with different finishes, giving the same product a different appearance according to specific applications and market needs. The varied production lines and the technology implemented in Palestine allow manufacturers to produce different types of finishes such as polished, honed, flamed, antiqued, brushed, bush hammered (light and heavy), chiselled (light and heavy), split face, sandblasted, and acid treated. There are many excavation sites in the north and south of Palestine that have quarries. The major ones are in Hebron (Taffouh, Tarqumia, Injasah, Bani Naim, Yatta, Shiokh, Rbea’h, and Sour Emein), Bethlehem (Beit Fajar, Khalet Hejjeh, and Slaieb), Ramallah (Bir Zeit, Abu Shkhedem, Al-Mazra’a, Burham, Deir Jreir, and Deir Ammar), Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarem (Jammae’in, Asira, Jarraa’, and Qabatia).
The Union of Stone and Marble Industry The Union of Stone and Marble Industry in Palestine (USM) was established in 1996. It is an independent, non-governmental and non-profit membership-based organization dedicated to promoting the goals and protecting the needs of Palestinian stone and marble producers. The USM’s mission is to become the leading representative of the stone and marble industry in Palestine, to promote and defend the interests of the industry, and to support and encourage the industry’s development. The Union endeavours to strategically position the Palestinian stone and marble industry on the international market. Its main tasks are to represent the stone and marble sector in Palestine in relation to governmental and non-governmental institutions, and advocate the needs and interests of the producers; to advise the government on the needed infrastructure; to foster the development of skills needed to promote stone and marble production, and export development through training programmes and supporting the restructuring of production capacities; to participate in the international network of exhibitions and conferences related to the industry; to serve as the principle contact point for those who seek investment and opportunities in the sector; to reinforce the role of the USM as a resource centre for information on the industry; and to strengthen and sustain cooperation among members and seek to address their concerns and any complexities that may arise.