Confindustria Ceramica

20   Dicembre   2019

The Italian ceramic tile industry fails to grow in 2019

Eith production, sales and exports stagnant at last year’s levels. The sector is investing strongly in sustainability, but action on the Emissions Trading system is needed to avoid losing competitiveness and incurring extra costs of 30 million euros per year

he 2019 production, sales and export figures for the Italian ceramic tile industry have dropped to slightly below the corresponding levels for 2018. This lack of growth, coupled with the increase in production capacity deriving from the substantial Industry 4.0 investments made over the last four years, has prompted a number of companies to stop production for several weeks to avoid accumulating excess stock, just as they did last year.
These are just a few of the aspects that emerged from the presentation of the economic trends given at this morning’s press conference and further explored during the afternoon at a conference with Confindustria Ceramica member companies that also saw the participation of the Italian ceramic industry’s sister associations Acimac and Ceramicolor.

The 2019 figures for ceramic tiles
The preliminary 2019 figures published by Prometeia based on sector-wide data show that the Italian ceramic tile industry generated output volumes and sales of around 409 million square metres (1 million sq.m less than in 2018), consisting of approximately 326 million square metres of exports (-2 million sq.m) and 82 million square metres of domestic sales (+1 million sq.m). Amongst the key markets, sales in Italy and Europe account for around two-thirds of the total and are seeing growth of a few percentage points, while exports outside the EU are in some cases experiencing more significant contractions.

The Chairman’s comment
“International trade in all sectors is being affected by the rise in trade tensions at a global level, especially but not only between the United States and China, which create a sense of uncertainty amongst consumers and professionals,” said Giovanni Savorani, Chairman of Confindustria Ceramica. Recent studies show that the countries that have been worst affected by this situation are big exporters and those with a large public debt, both of which are conditions that apply to Italy.
In recent years the Italian ceramic industry has invested more than 2 billion euros in new technologies and has installed manufacturing plant with the highest levels of environmental sustainability, but it is facing stiff competition from countries with lower labour and energy costs coupled with superior road and port infrastructure, as well as from producers of alternative materials.
Our communication campaign entitled ‘The values of ceramic’, which has involved the participation of more than sixty Italian ceramic companies and has been promoted internationally through agreements with foreign distributors’, fixers’ and producers’ associations and their member companies, has exceeded 12 million views. We are very proud of this campaign, which on 2 December in Milan received the third prize in the national competition “L’Italia che comunica” organised by the association of communication and advertising agencies UNA.
Environmental sustainability is one of the key areas in which the sector is focusing its efforts. On 7 December we signed a voluntary agreement to reduce the emissions of the ceramic district together with its ten constituent municipalities, two provinces and the Emilia Romagna regional government. This innovative agreement, the only one of its kind in Italy, establishes a general cap for the emissions of the district as a whole, while the individual companies already have much lower emission levels than those established by the European Union. This agreement aims to improve the competitiveness of our companies through actions such as standardised authorisation procedures and reduction of the timeframe for issuing integrated environmental authorisations to 45 days.
The European Emissions Trading system is currently highly punitive for our sector compared to non-European competitors. In the period 2021-2030, it will result in extra costs estimated by Nomisma Energia at more than 30 million euros/year. These costs act as a form of taxation on factors of production independently of completed and planned investments at a time when extremely high levels of efficiency have already been attained and major technological advances capable of significantly reducing emissions are not expected to be available for several years. Under the terms of the ETS directive, Member States may partially compensate companies for the indirect costs they incur (i.e. the higher cost of electricity). The ceramic sector is not currently among those eligible for this compensation, but as an energy-intensive sector highly exposed to international competition it runs the risk of having to relocate production towards non-EU countries. The European Commission will have to make a decision regarding this in coming weeks and it is essential for this incomprehensible punitive measure to be eliminated.
Alongside investments in technological innovation and sustainable development, professional training is the third cornerstone of our efforts to improve competitiveness. Confindustria Ceramica has adopted a wide-ranging approach, beginning with an analysis of the training requirements of the sector over a period of five years. The next step is to sign agreements with high schools and organise the so-called ‘ceramic modules’, a series of technical lessons given by experts from ceramic companies at certain university faculties in coordination with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and the University of Bologna. Another initiative is the launch of the 2nd level Master’s degree in Business and Ceramic Technology, which will give 16 science graduates the opportunity to gain experience in all aspects of company activity during the current academic year through internships and lessons given by managers from ceramic companies.

One of the key factors for the competitiveness of our companies is infrastructure, most notably the long-awaited start-up of work on the Campogalliano-Sassuolo motorway link road and planning of the rail link between the freight stations of Marzaglia and Dinazzano. The Ravenna seaport is likewise crucially important as a natural point of arrival for our raw materials and investments have been approved to increase the draft depth by one metre to allow larger and more efficient ships to dock. In cooperation with the Ravenna port authority, we are completing a study that will be presented next spring to explore ways of increasing exports of finished product towards Eastern European markets by sea.