The fiesta continues in Madrid

The fiesta that lasted for more than ten years is now over in Spain and there is apprehension about the future of the stone market in the country. However, business was still brisk at the Piedra exhibition in Madrid last month (May), writes Paul Daniel.

Considering the gloom about the world economy, especially the USA, UK and Spain, the mood at Piedra was decidedly upbeat. True, there were 116 fewer exhibitors than there had been at the previous show in 2006, but 833 direct and indirect exhibitors from 21 countries was not a bad tally.

The aisles between stands were a little wider than usual but at least it was less crowded at peak times, when the stands of leading companies were, at times, so busy visitors were queueing to meet the staff.

The future may be uncertain but the present, at least as far as Piedra went, had a definite feelgood factor.

Faced with a slowdown at home, Spain has increased its exports in both volume and value every year since the turn of the millennium. The trend continued in 2007 when exports reached 71,025million, 13% of that from the UK.

Spanish companies have become familiar names in the UK - among them Levantina, Cosentino with their Silestone quartz, Pavestone and Tino, all of which were exhibiting at Piedra.

I asked the Spanish Natural Stone Federation how they saw the future for stone, both in Spain and from exports.

They said: "In Spain, we expect the production volume will be maintained at its present level. We cannot overlook the fact that there is a major crisis in the construction industry in Spain right now and we think that this situation will continue - our stone companies will have to look for new markets in order to secure their livelihood.

"Spanish natural stone products enjoy an excellent reputation throughout the world. Our stone companies are energetically seeking new markets, especially in those countries which recently joined the European Union and also in Russia. We are reasonably optimistic about the longer term future."

News from the Piedra: Hedisa Group have bought 90% of the shares of Fabrimar, a leading diamond tool manufacturer in Portugal. Hedisa Group includes machine builder Grani Roc and Sumi-Roc, who now sell Garrone chain saws from Italy.

And visitors to Hall 3 could not fail to see the prototype NDF-6030 multi-blade diamond wire (MDW) slabbing machine near the entrance.

Pedro Quelhas explained on on behalf of Spanish manufacturer Nodosafer that with the increasing cost of steel, wire saws are gaining an even greater advantage over gang saws.

And there was an innovation in wire sawing being shown by Italians Nuova Fa.U.Di - a diamond quarry wire that does not need water. Perhaps something for British quarries to look at.