By Symela Touchtidou
Greece is the fourth largest exporter of marble in the world.
The Greek marble extraction and production sector is a rare example of success story during the decade long financial crisis of Greece: faced with the near elimination of internal construction, the sector was forced to redefine its business model and its target markets.
And it succeeded. It managed to increase exports, keep jobs and wages stable during the crisis era.
Nowadays, its numbers are impressive:
- 76 % of Greek marble production is exported to 120 countries
- Exports have tripled in the past decade
- Value of global demand for Greek marble: 1.27 billion euros
- Greece is the US’s sixth largest supplier of processed marble. 15% of Greece’s processed marble goes to USA
- 60 % of all exportable raw Greek marble goes to China
- Total investments: 67 million euros
- Employees: 6.500
- 0.33% contribution to Greek GDP
The Greek marble has made its way to some of the most iconic buildings of the world:
- at Mecca (where marble from Thassos was used)
- at the Shanghai OperaHouse
- at the Barcelona Airport–El Prat
- at the Petronas Twin Towers of Singapore
“Addressing the global market meant matching the foreign market’s demand,” president of the Macedonia Thrace Association of Marble Businesses, Ioulia Haida, said at the online forum ‘Exports turn Crisis into Opportunity’ held by the Panhellenic Exporters Association and the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce of New York.
Ancient history, modern challenges
The Greek marble has been identified with the masterpieces of ancient Greek sculpture and architecture.
From the white marble women figurines of the Early Cycladic period to the Aphrodite of Milos, Hermes of Praxiteles, the Victory of Samothrace, and the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea of the Athens Acropolis, the Greek marble has made its trademark in the world.
Modern Greek companies build on that legacy and studies show that reserves are rich, especially in North Greece. Still there are numerous challenges the sector has to overcome. Among them, the main are:
- the cost of environmental protection
- an extremely complicated bureaucratic system that impedes new investments, despite the new law on mining activities
- lack of national sales promotion strategies to strengthen the Greek marble brand in global markets