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HomeFeatured ArticlesChina’s maturing manufacturers now produce half of the world’s ceramic tiles

China’s maturing manufacturers now produce half of the world’s ceramic tiles

In this extensive feature, TSJ provides the latest statistics on the Chinese tile market, profiles a handful of China’s top tile manufacturers, explores the role of the sourcing agent and considers the impact of EU anti-dumping measures.

According to Ceramic World Review (issue 122), Chinese tile production in 2016 totalled 6,495 million sq. metres, an increase of 8.8% on 2015’s total.  This equates to nearly half (49.7%) of the world’s total ceramic tile production.

In contrast, official Chinese sources estimate tile production at more than 11 billion sq. metres, spread over some 1,400 companies and 3,500 production lines.  Domestic consumption is estimated at 5,475 million sq. metres, which equates to 42.8% of world consumption.

Chinese tile exports fell for the third year running in 2016 from 1,089 to 1,025 million sq. metres, down 5.9%.  This still equates to 36.7% of total world exports.  The decline affected all continents with the exception of Oceania, where Chinese tile imports grew by 7%, from 32.4 million sq. metres in 2015 to 34.7 million sq. metres in 2016.

Asian countries remained the main outlet market for Chinese ceramic tiles.  Although Chinese exports to Asia fell slightly in 2016 to 583 million sq. metres (down 1.3%), the region’s percentage share of total Chinese exports rose from 55% to 58%.  Eight of China’s ten top export markets are in Asia: Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Cambodia (+17%).  India has crashed out of the rankings of China’s Top 10 export markets following the slump in sales from 31.7 million sq. metres to 11.9 million sq. metres (down 62.3.  In June 2016 the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry approved the introduction of anti-dumping measures on Chinese ceramic tile imports.  This will result in the application of duties for a period of five years on various types of tiles, with the exception of full-body porcelain and panels less than 5mm thick.

Africa, the second largest geographical area of export for Chinese tiles, saw a 14% contraction with volumes declining from 230 million sq. metres to 198 million sq. metres.  This was mainly due to the 70.9% fall in Nigeria, where exports plummeted from 52.4 million sq. metres to 15.3 million sq. metres (down 70.9%).

South America also saw a fall for the third consecutive year with sales declining in 2016 to 80 million sq. metres (down 11%).
A similar contraction occurred in North America down 11.7%), with Chinese export volumes dropping from 88 to 78 million sq. metres.  The positive results in the USA, up 11% to 56.4 million sq. metres did not offset the slump in sales in Mexico, down 62% from 24.5 to 9.3 million sq. metres, following the introduction of anti-dumping duties in 2015.

Chinese exports to Europe continued the downward trend of the past five years, again following the introduction of anti-dumping duties by the EU in 2011.  Last year Chinese tile imports to the EU totalled just 15.9 million sq. metres; down 20.2% on 2015 and 77% over the five-year period.  Chinese exports to non-EU European markets totalled 10.2 million sq. metres, down 8.7% on 2015.

The three largest exporter countries – China, Spain and Italy – together accounted for 62.7% of world exports in 2016, while the top ten countries made up 85.5% of exports.  In Italy and Spain exports account for a far higher share of production (both 80%), compared to 66.7% in the UAE, 37% in Iran, 32% in Poland, and shares of between 12% and 24% in India, Brazil, Turkey, and Mexico.  For China, exports account for just 15.8% of total production.  

China also lags well behind Italy and Spain when it comes to average selling price.  Here Italy enjoys a leadership position with an average selling price of €13.8 per sq. metre.  For Spain it is €6.5 per sq. metre, while for China it is €4.9 per sq. metre.

Importing tiles from China: A Complete Guide
In this article, Kenson from Foshan Sourcing (https://www.foshansourcing.com) offers some useful tips to follow when importing tiles from China, and offers some solutions to common problems.

It is a common complaint that it is very difficult to choose good tile suppliers in China, because the choice, at more than 3,000 companies, is so extensive.

Many importers also find it a headache to select the correct tile designs and also exercise effective control over quality.  A large number of Chinese tile manufacturers are able to produce more than 25,000 sq. metres of tiles per day.  This means that they are ready to export almost any volume of tiles required at any time.

Many tile manufacturing nations around the world have been affected by the rapid growth of the Chinese tile industry.  Many of these countries have higher production costs, making China a cost-effective choice.  Many countries in the world, unlike the EU, do not have an anti-dumping duty on Chinese tiles. Moreover, tile exporters can get 9% taxation refund from the Chinese government.  Thus,depending on the type of tiles, Chinese suppliers’ selling prices can be 30% to 50% lower than tiles sourced elsewhere in the world.  Of course, the quality can also satisfy most importers’ requirements.

After attending the 121st Canton Fair (China Import and Export Fair) and Cerambath (China International Ceramic & Bathroom Fair), we have found that large-format ceramic tiles are increasing popular.  Whether a simple rustic tile or a classic marble tile, they are all starting to be shown in large formats.

According to the statistics, rustic tiles account for 10% of all the ceramic tiles in China.  Currently, nearly 80% of the lines of rustic tiles are distributed in Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Shandong, Hunan, and Hubei provinces. In the first half of this year, 50 new lines for rustic tiles opened in Guangdong, Fujian, Gaoan and Linyi.

Most cities and provinces in China specialise in the manufacture of specific products.  Most suppliers of a certain product are grouped together in one area.  This concept makes it easy for importers to source products from China.  If you are sourcing tile from China, here are the main places to investigate.

Foshan, Guangdong province: Foshan is a hub for ceramic tiles.  About 350 ceramic tile producers, with an annual production of about 1.2 billion sq. metres of ceramic tiles, are based in Foshan.  In the past 10 years Foshan has produced 54% of China’s total ceramic tile output, and 25% of the world’s total production of ceramic tiles.

Foshan’s ceramic tile manufacturers continuously work on improving the designs of their ceramic tiles. They thrive to match the quality of ceramic tiles produced in Spain and Italy in order to grow their exports to major Western markets grow.  Today, eight out of the ten China Famous Brands named by the government are based in Foshan, Guangdong Province.

Zibo, Shandong province:  This is where low value and glazed polished tile are mainly produced.  However, since 201,2 the quality of tiles produced in Shandong has improved tremendously.  The cost advantage of the province has been attracting foreign buyers.  Shandong tile exports have reached record highs, so that it now ranks as the third province in China in terms of tile exports.

Comparing with Foshan, Shandong’s tiles are not so high quality but have a lower price.  The main reason is raw materials.  Geography determines that the soil in Shandong is worse than that in Foshan.  Moreover,most Foshan factories use ink imported from Spain or Italy, whereas Shandong factories use local ink in order to save cost.  Advanced production technologies also mean that Foshan’s tile quality is better.

Fujian province.  This is where low-value wall tiles are mainly produced.  Most of the exterior tiles exported by China are produced by small family-owned workshops in this province.  Each workshop would only have about 5 to 10 workers,  that they can offer lower prices.

If you want to import tiles from China, the internet is your easiest option to find suppliers.  Suppliers may be classified either as factories or traders.  Of course, it would be cheaper to source tiles directly from factories, but it can be difficult to discern whether a supplier is a factory or a trader.

On the internet, you will find B2B market places for tiles from China; the most reliable of which is alibaba.com.  Searching through these platforms will provide a wide choice of suppliers.

When sourcing tiles from China, you could either do the entire process yourself or work with a sourcing agent.  A sourcing agent could be an individual or a firm based in China who could do the legwork for you. Sourcing agents can help you source suppliers, negotiate prices, place orders and monitor deliveries.

When you decide to import tiles from China, you should remember that there are certain risks involved. The quality of the product is always an issue when importing from China.  After finding a suitable Chinese tile supplier, the next step is to request for a sample. Suppliers would often send you a sample based on your specifications with the best possible quality. Satisfied with the quality, you would place an order, make the payment and await arrival of the shipment.

The tiles you should receive should be of the best quality based on a specifications that has been agreed with the supplier; and there should also be no breakages during transit.

Chinese products are known for their low cost and, unfortunately, also for different quality levels. Therefore, finding a reliable supplier is most important.  Issues often arise when you discover inconsistencies in your shipment when full payment has already been made.

You are left with only a few options.  Although you can litigate in China, Chinese suppliers are aware that the cost of litigation is often not worth the cost of their shipment, so they simply just shrug this off.

The problem of quality can be avoided, or kept to a minimum, if you work with a tile sourcing agent.  The agent can find the best suppliers, check the quality, do the certification, arrange loading, and all complete export and customs paperwork.  A good agent makes it easy it is to import from China, saving the importer time and energy.

The standard payment terms in China is a 30% deposit before production and the balance upon completion of the order, prior to shipment.  The conditions upon when you should make the final payment can be crucial and, if you have a sourcing agent representative in China, this issue can be avoided.

Payment of orders always poses as a problem for importers of Chinese products.  Although being scammed is only a remote possibility in China, there is always a small possibility that importers can be scammed.  The best way to protect yourself is to make a small order first.  A small order will also give you an idea of how the manufacturer works.

Safe payment options when dealing with Chinese suppliers include telegraphic transfer.  This form of payment is accepted by all suppliers.   It does not, however, offer full protection.  Importers should make sure that they are transferring funds to the official account of the supplier and not to a personal account.

Alibaba Escrow can be used if sourcing from Alibaba.  This option gives importers protection as Alibaba withholds money to the China supplier until the customer receives the goods.  However, not all suppliers accept this mode of payment and it is normally applicable only for small orders.

The PayPal payment option assures the fast receipt of payment to a China supplier.  It is, however, only applicable to very small orders, such as samples.  Another downside is that not all Chinese suppliers accept this form of payment and PayPal also charges high fees.
Another option is paying your Chinese supplier in cash when you come to China.

If you are working with a sourcing agent, he can help place orders, oversee quality control and arrange shipment. Once everything is completed satisfactorily, the sourcing agent firm will pay the supplier.

Another option is a Letter of Credit.  This type of payment does not require the importer to make any deposits to the supplier when orders are usually below $30,000.  A good thing about Letter of Credit is that it places pressure on the supplier to comply with the Order Agreement.  However, not all Chinese tile suppliers accept Letters of Credit, and securing a Letter of Credit from a bank will incur a high fee.

Shipping tiles from China
Although tiles are quite delicate products, it is not that difficult  to ship tiles out of China.  The logistics and shipping are really not that complicated.  What importers really need to focus on is the shipping cost.

Importers first need to deal with port of loading or local transportation.  This is the transporting of the product from the manufacturer’s warehouse to the closest port of loading.  Most ports of loading are three to four hours away from the nearest port.  Thus most often this transportation cost is part of the FOB (Freight on Board) cost quoted by the manufacturer.

All cargo shipped out of China needs to be cleared for export.  These documents need to be passed by the Chinese Customs Authorities.  The cost of these documentations is often included in the FOB price, and it will be more cost-effective if the manufacturer handles this part.

The Freight Cost is the cost from the Port of Loading to the Port of Destination (country of the buyer).  Costs are computed depending on the cargo: Full Container Loads (FCL) or Less than Container Load (LCL).

Most forwarders do not explain the local charges involved, which can, in extreme cases, increase the  freight cost by up to five times.  This is a dilemma of most importers from China: low freight cost but very high local charges. Therefore, before you commission the shipping agent, make sure all charges are listed clearly and that there are no invisible costs.

It is always important to buy insurance for your shipment.  Some suppliers may provide low quality packaging in order to reduce cost.  Therefore,insurance is very important as tiles are delicate and breakable products. Besides, without insurance, the forwarder will not give compensation should the cargo suffer damage in transit.

The cost of delivering the Bill of Lading, Packing List, Commercial List, and other documents are often paid by the importer.  However, some suppliers are willing to cover this charge for long-term customers or large orders.

Many first time importers from China are surprised by the local charges in the Port of Destination, so importers need to make sure that know all the charges before shipping.

Importing tiles from China can prove to ber a profitable business strategy.  However, importers need to know the right and proper process to achieve the potential maximum profits.

Importing from China can be a tedious process, starting off with sourcing the right tile supplier all the way to having the orders delivered to your warehouse.

Luckily, there are B2B market places that can guide you every step of the way.  You need not physically go to China, although many importer opt to do so.  And there are experienced, reputable sourcing agents you can work with in China that can help to make the whole tile import process successful.
More at: https://www.foshansourcing.com

EU anti-dumping measures renewed
Back in 2009, the EU gave notice of initiation of anti-dumping proceedings concerning imports of ceramic  tiles originating from the People’s Republic of China.  

This followed the Commission receiving a complaint  pursuant to Article 5 of Council Regulation 1225/2009    on protection against dumped imports from countries   not members of the EU, alleging that imports of  ceramic tiles, originating in the People’s Republic of China,  were being dumped, causing material injury to the EU industry.

The complaint was lodged in May 2010 by the  European Ceramic Tile Manufacturers’ Federation (CET)  on behalf of producers, in this case representing more  than 30% of the total EU production of ceramic tiles.

In September 2011, the EU Council imposing a definitive anti-dumping duty on imports of ceramic tiles  originating in the People’s Republic of China

Anti-Dumping Duty is an Import Duty charged in addition to normal Customs Duty and is applied across the whole EU.  It is designed to allow the EU to take action against goods that are sold at less than their normal value: that being defined as the price for ‘like goods’ sold in the exporter’s home market.

More recently, following an expiry review, the Commission advised implementing Regulation No 2017/2179, OJ L307, continuing the Anti-Dumping Duty for a further five years, with effect from 24th November 2017.

The European Union claims it has taken this action to defend jobs and investment in the tile industry, including in the UK.  The EU believes anti-dumping duties ensure a more level playing field.

Dr Laura Cohen, Chief Executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, stated: “We are really pleased that the EU has decided to continue with the anti-dumping duties after a lengthy investigation.  The measures have provided stability for the UK sector enabling companies to invest and develop a stronger future.”

Tom Reynolds, Policy Manager at the British Ceramic Confederation, added: “It’s really important that the UK Government makes the preparations to keep these measures once we leave the EU.  Many jobs, both direct and within the local supply chain, are at stake.”

During the ‘Expiry Review’ the European Commission found enormous overcapacities in the Chinese tiles industry, which is heavily subsidised and state-directed. The spare capacity in China is equivalent to several times the total EU consumption of tiles, leading officials to conclude there was a high likelihood that dumping would reoccur if the extra duties were lifted.

China’s leading tile manufacturers
China’s ceramic tile industry has boomed in the past two decades.  Today it is estimated that there are more than 1,450 ceramic tile manufacturers in China, operating more than 3,600 production lines.  This equates to a daily production capacity of over 45 million sq. metres, according to the latest statistics from The China Building Ceramics and Sanitaryware Association.

No one company or group enjoys market domination.  Indeed, the top ten manufacturers have a combined total annual capacity of 676 million sq. metres, which equates to just 4.12% of total Chinese production.

Currently, due to new environmental protection laws, some of older plants are being phased out.  At the same time, the slowdown affecting China’s economy and real estate industry has led to fierce competition and prompted a round of mergers and acquisitions.

China’s largest architectural ceramics enterprise, NewPearl Group, comprises Guangdong New Pearl Ceramics Group, Guangdong Summit Ceramics Group, and Jiangxi New Pearl Ceramics Group, with a combined annual ceramic tile capacity of more than 200 million sq. metres.
The second-ranked New Zhongyuan group has nine production bases located in Foshan, Gao’an and other strategic locations, with a combined capacity of 100 million sq. metres.

The third largest producer is Nabel with five production bases in Hangzhou, Jiujiang, and Deqing, and a combined annual capacity of over 78 million sq. metres.

Wonderful follows, with a combined annual production capacity of 58 million sq. metres.

Marco Polo Ceramics
Marco Polo is a leading brand from Guangdong Aesthetic Ceramics, one of China’s largest ceramic tile manufacturers.  The Marco Polo brand was established in 1996, it claims to offer China’s most complete ceramic product line.  Its original design, the China Impression range, offers the essence of Chinese traditional culture in designs that hark back to Oriental Zen. Marco Polo Ceramics
W: http://www.marcopolo.com.cn

Mona Lisa Ceramics
W: http://www.monalisa.com.cn/
Mona Lisa was established in 1998, mainly in the production of high-grade ceramic tile, the company has a world leading ceramic panel production line and 22 large-scale modern production lines.  The Mona Lisa trademark was registered in 2000, with a market strategy based on innovation, art and personality.  Its slogan is “Every family deserves to own a Mona Lisa.”   The brands ethos is to combine excellent customer care with products that integrate home decoration with concepts from the humanities and arts; delivers a modern way of thinking about the home.
W: http://www.monalisa.com.cn

Bode Ceramic
Guangdong Bode Seiko Building Materials was founded in 2002 to deliver high-tech, environmentally-friendly, tile product design, development, and production.  With a huge initial investment, Bode adopted industry-leading ceramic production technology and implemented international operation and management, such as ISO 9001 International Quality Management System, ISO 14001 International Environmental Management System, and OHSAS 18001 International Occupational Health and Safety Management System.  The company has strong R&D, both at the Guangdong Province Technology Center and Guangdong Province Engineering Research and Development Center.

Bode continues to adhere to the philosophy of Seiko; strive for perfection, make unremitting efforts to climb the pinnacle of building materials in the world, create more and more cost-effective architectural decoration elements, and deliver the dream of human home decoration.”
W: http://www.bodestone.cc

Dongpeng Ceramic
Dongpeng, founded in 1972, bills itself as a one-stop service provider for ceramic tiles, sanitaryware, flooring, paint, and other services.  Dongpeng operates from 14 production sites in China; while more than 40 warehouses guarantee timely delivery, and transport costs savings.  Worldwide Dongpeng companies provide customers with a comprehensive product selection and effective decoration programme.
W: http://www.dongpeng.com

Foshan Gani Ceramics
Established in 2002, Foshan Gani Ceramics (known as Jane Yi) is a pioneer in the marble tile category dedicated to providing high-end tiles.  The company’s marble tiles have been exported to Italy, France, and more than 60 countries, and are used by many well-known names including Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, Vanke, Greentown, Intime Property, Macalline, and Changchun, as well as other large-scale projects.
Jane operates what it bills as the world’s first marble Applied Design Institute, tracking international trends, undertaking research and launching a variety of applied marble designs.

Jane’s professional R & D team developed the bump polished glaze colour ceramic tile manufacturing process, the whole body marble tile cloth system and many other patented innovations.

It operates a marketing network across the world, covering Italy, France, Germany, Spain, the USA, Australia and other countries with 518 Jane marble flagship stores.  These are supported by a large logistics operation to provide excellent logistics services to end-users and consumers.  This brand is linked to Reed Harris on The Tile Association website.
W: http://ganimarbletiles.com

Eagle Ceramics
Arguably the best known Chinese tile brand in the West, Foshan Shiwan Eagle Huapeng Ceramics  was founded in 1974 in one of China’s main ceramics centres.  Eagle operates from two major production bases.  One of China’s most prominent brands, its success is built on professional R&D, and design, leading to the production of porcelain polished tiles, porcelain glazed tiles, glazed wall tiles, through-body marble-effects, and ceramic tiles with an annual output of more than 30 million sq. metres.

The Eagle brand is now available through more than 1,000 distribution outlets world-wide, with its products exported to the USA, Germany, Italy, France, and more than 100 other countries.  Eagle brand products are widely used in military and government projects, as well as by banks, hospitals, telecommunications, office buildings, high-end residential developments, and five-star hotels.

In 1988, Eagle developed 3D printed glazed tiles.  This was followed, in 1996, by arc polished tiles, and, in 2011, by crystal polymerization.
W: http://www.eagleceramicsglobal.com

New Source Ceramics
New Source Ceramics has 10 large-scale modern ceramic production plants, in Sanshui, Heyuan and Qingyuan in Guangdong Province, delivering product lines that covers the full range of tiles, ceramic sanitaryware and other products.  The production capacity means New Source is one of China’s largest producers.  It offers this comprehensive product range to more than 1,000 domestic sales outlets, while exporting to over 120 countries.
W: http://www.newzhongyuan.com/

Nobel Ceramics
Founded in 1992, Hangzhou Nobel Ceramics produces glazed ceramic tiles, glazed porcelain wall tiles, polished porcelain tiles, European retro brick, matt tiles, and many decorative accessories.  From classic ceramic tiles through European-style retro brick effects, to porcelain tiles produced using digital ink-jet-penetrating inks, Nobel is one of the clear leaders in Chinese tile innovation.
W: http://en.nabel.cc

Meitao Ceramics
Mei Tao Ceramics produces floor and wall tiles, and claims to be the only Chinese company to launch anti-bacterial tiles.
W: http://www.meitaotc.com/

New Pearl Ceramics
Guangdong New Pearl Ceramics, located in Nanzhuan Town, Foshan City, is a large, modern enterprise that specialises in manufacturing ceramic floor tiles and sanitaryware.  Established in 1993 it has grown into a group of seven affiliated factories, with 5000 employees and an annual production of up to 42 million sq. metres of ceramic tiles. It brands include Guangzhu, Gelaisi, Summit, Goldensun, and Huiwanjia.
W: http://en.newpearl.com

Lola Ceramics
Foshan City Lola Ceramics, founded in 1993, is one of the leading high-end ceramic tile companies in China.  Lola Ceramics has three production bases, located in Sanshui Jinben Development District, Enping New Industrial Park and Luocun, Nanhai.  Lola Ceramic imports significant quantities of first-class raw materials, precision equipment and state-of-the-art production technology.  This has led to a portfolio of more than 3,000 different porcelain wall and floor tiles, and ceramic tiles, that are exported all over the world including to the USA, Canada, EU, Australia, South Africa, South Korea, and India.  Export sales account for more than 50% of turnover.
W: http://www.lolatiles.com

Wondrous Ceramics
Foshan Wondrous Building Materials is one of the biggest ceramic tile manufacturers in Foshan. The factory has been established for over 20 years, and employs around 1,000 workers.  With more than 15 years’ export experience, its products are shipped to Europe, Australia, Japan, Korea, Middle-east, Russia, USA, Brazil, and African. The philosophy is good quality at a good price.   Many famous brand use Wondrous to produce OEM lines including RAK, B&Q, Guocera Malaysia, and Cotto Thailand.
W: http://www.chntile.com/

Other leading Chinese tile brands
Crown Ceramics
W: http://www.cg1993.com
Shun Hui Ceramics
W: http://www.shunhuiceramic.com

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