BENGALURU : The raging war between Hamas and Israel is the latest crisis to hit the already-troubled granite industry in Karnataka.
The flourishing export business had an unprecedented slump during the pandemic and was slowly recovering when the Ukraine-Russia war broke out. The annual granite exports from the state worth Rs 2,000 crore dipped by 50 per cent during the last two financial years and is expected to continue along similar lines this fiscal too.
Granite varieties — jet black, Ilkal pink, green granite and Himalayan blue — from Karnataka are in demand for decorative purposes across the world. Granite exports from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Odisha and Gujarat to the US, China, Taiwan, Europe (particularly Italy) and the Middle East total Rs 12,000 crore annually, said Mr. S Krishna Prasad, General Secretary, Federation of Indian Granite & Stone Industry (FIGSI).
“Of this, Karnataka’s exports work out to nearly Rs 2,000 crore. But during 2021-22 and 2022-23, it nosedived to just Rs 1,000 crore due to multiple international issues. The general slowdown which began during Covid and then the Ukraine war has worsened due to the ongoing Palestine-Israel war. Orders from the Middle East have completely dried up,” said Prasad, who also owns quarries in the state.
‘China has slashed 80% of its imports from India’
“Red granite from Ilkal was much sought after. Medium quality granite from Rajasthan and Karnataka used to be in demand in Russia, while the US would seek polished slabs and granite. The state used to send granite to Europe mainly to be used for tombstones,” he explained. The proliferation of artificial granite (quartz) has also eaten into our business, he added.
The absence of international demand has resulted in a considerable number of granite processing units in the state shutting shop. “Closure of units mainly in Jigani, Bommasandra and Attibele have cost at least 1,000 jobs,” he said. “The international slump has prevented us from taking advantage of the new mining policy in Karnataka,” he added.
Mr. B Umashankar, president, Karnataka Federation of Granite & Stone Industry, and a quarry owner in Chikkaballapur, said, “The state has come out with a new mining policy from March 27, 2023, which is good. It came into effect from July. The impact of it will take six to eight months to show.” Because of poor policies earlier, no new designs have been created since 2015, he added.
“China has slashed 80 per cent of its imports from India, while global problems have affected business in France, Germany and Poland as they are unable to resell our products. Our tombstone exports to Dubai and Palestine have vanished due to the crisis in the Middle East over the last one month,” he said.
“Quarrying is the most labour- intensive industry and due to lack of demand, businesses have shut and jobs have gone,” Umashankar said. R Shivakumar, owner of 13 quarries across India and Kumar Granites and Marbles unit in Bengaluru, said, “My business has gone down by 67%.
My exports to the tune of Rs 5 crore last year have shrunk completely. The energy bills, quarrying cost and processing labour cost in Karnataka are much more expensive than in China. They import from us and export the finished material.”