The Turkish ceramic tile industry pushes on exports

From 2015 to 2018, Turkish ceramic tile exports have grown steadily to 100 million sqm, representing 30% of national production.

Turkey is the world’s seventh largest ceramic tile exporting country. Its tile exports have grown steadily over the last 4 years (77 million sq.m in 2015, 81 in 2016, 93 in 2017 and 100 in 2018) and now represent 30% of Turkish production (335 million sq.m in 2018), with an average selling price of about 5 euros/sq.m. Almost half of the country’s total 2018 tile exports were sold in the European Union (+5%), a quarter in Asia (+14%) and 17% in North America (-17%).

During his speech at the conference “The future of Ceramics” held in Modena, Italy, on November 11th 2019, İlter Yurtbay, Chairman of the Turkish ceramic tile manufacturers’ association (Serkap), confirmed that the upsurge in exports was the sector’s response to the contraction in sales in the domestic market (-6% in 2018). The fall in domestic demand has continued through 2019, prompting Turkish producers to seek out foreign markets and new customers who will be capable of guaranteeing long-term, sustainable export sales demand. Rather than low income countries, the Turkish ceramic industry is now aiming at higher income economies. One example is South Korea, but it’s not the only one.

According to Mr. Yurtbay, in 2020 the Turkish ceramic tile industry will reap the fruits of its efforts while also seeing a strong recovery in domestic consumption.

There’s no question that exports are crucial for the Turkish ceramic industry. However, Serkap’s Chairman underlined that the approach adopted by many companies in the sector lacks a clear strategy for long-term expansion in export markets. “This is because the strong growth of the Turkish market has always meant that the majority of production is absorbed by domestic sales. Nonetheless, problems can arise in the event of a recession like the one that occurred in the last two years. If companies react simply by redirecting their output to export markets without any kind of planning, this risks upsetting the balance of the market”, Yurtbay added.

According to Mr. Yurtbay, the Turkish ceramic tile companies should maintain their export sales at a minimum of 30% of total production, while implementing a proper customer service, an area in which the industry has already made considerable progress.

Today the Turkish ceramic industry can compete with Italy and Spain in both the tile and sanitaryware sectors as it arguably provides the best quality for the most competitive prices. “The next goal - Yurtbay said – will be the digitalisation of factories, not just to make processes more efficient but also to improve service thanks to the potential offered by smart or lean manufacturing. This will require a greater commitment to education and training in a sector that is finding it increasingly difficult to attract suitably qualified technical personnel, also in Turkey”. 

Watch the video-interview with Ilter Yurtbay


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