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The Spanish ceramic tile sector

Spain’s ceramic tile sector is one of the country’s most dynamic industrial branches.

One of the main features of the Spanish tile sector is its high concentration in the province of Castellón, where the presence of skilled labour, technicians, raw materials suppliers, maintenance workshops and a long business tradition all converge. In 1998, nearly 92% of Spanish production came from this province, in which 80% of the tile manufacturing companies are located.

242 companies were registered in this sector in 1998, a figure that includes small workshops and third-fire companies.

The most recent numbers on employment (from 1998) show that the sector provides direct employment for about 21,700 workers, and an estimated further 4,000 indirect jobs. In terms of workers, almost 95% of the companies are rated as SMEs as they employ fewer than 250 persons. Over half the companies employ at least 50 people, while only five firms have more than 500 employees. Companies averaging 25 to 50 employees form the largest group.


In 1999 Spain produced 602 million m2 ceramic tile, which represented an increase of 6.7% compared to the previous year, a figure that underscores the continuous investment made in the sector. Although tile production rose, growth was not as strong as in 1998 when production rose by 16.3% to 564 million m2. Figure 1 shows the evolution of tile production during the last 7 years.

This significant figure acquires its true relevance in conjunction with the Spanish tile sector’s capacity to remain at the technological cutting edge with regard to quality and service.

Spanish tile production has grown steadily since 1982, becoming even more marked in the 90’s. In 1998 Spain was the world’s second largest tile producer with a 15.2% share of world tile production.

Figure 1. Evolution of ceramic tile production


Spanish tile exports grew by 5.7% in 1999 to 1578.5 million Euros (262,636 million pesetas). Figure 2 shows how tile exports have evolved over the last 7 years.

Figure 2. Evolution of ceramic tile exports

Spain’s share of world foreign trade in ceramic tiles in 1998 (the last year for which figures are available) is estimated at 27.7%. Domestic sales increased by 11.7% in 1999, slightly less than the 14.8% rise of the previous year. The estimated revenue from these sales was 1303.4 million Euros (216,866 million pesetas). The sector’s total estimated revenue in 1999 was 2881.9 million Euros (479,502 million pesetas), 8.4% more than in 1998.

The USA is Spain’s top tile export destination, a market that absorbs 11.6% of Spanish foreign tile sales, and which, in 1999, experienced the greatest growth of the Spanish tile industry’s top five markets (+18.9%). France, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Germany follow on the list of major Spanish tile export markets. Exports have increased in the first three countries at an above average rate. The German market keeps evolving irregularly, ending the year with a 2.2% drop. The first five destinations cover 42.7% of total Spanish tile exports. In the other main markets, the following features deserve to be noted: high sales increase (22.3%) in Israel, drop in exports to Poland (-8.5%), good evolution of Saudi Arabian (+16.3%) and Italian (+11.9%) markets. The main marketplace for Spanish companies is the European Union, with sales of over 862.3 million Euros (143,472 million pesetas), involving 44.4% of total tile exports, and growth of 10.3%. North America (Canada, Mexico and mainly the USA) is the second largest market destination for Spanish tile exports (14.5%). The Middle East maintains high growth (14.7%) and is the third geographical market area, accounting for 12% of tile sales. Latin America, Eastern Europe and South East Asia are still feeling the effects of the 1998 crisis. Exports dropped more than 10% in the first two areas. The African market is rising slightly (+3.5%), whereas Oceania is the region exhibiting the fastest growth (+22.2%).

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