Taking the Gulf heat: Ceramics producers glaze over the UAE

Tied in with the exponential growth of the UAE’s leisure and hospitality industry, is an increasing demand for quality tiling and other ceramics products. Zoe Naylor explores how the ceramics industry is evolving in the region, and how local manufacturers are both working alongside and standing up to tough competition from overseas markets.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  September 17, 2005

Taking the Gulf heat: Ceramics producers glaze over the UAE|~|ceramics200.gif|~|Standing up to the competition: Local ceramics producers are facing an increasing influx of cheap products from overseas markets, like China.|~|The region’s insatiable appetite for shopping malls, hotels and mega-multiplex developments creates a constant demand for tiling and ceramics products. But local suppliers are facing increased competition in the form of cheaper products from countries such as China. Carlos Talisseh, sanitaryware sales manager at Paul Weil, Dubai, says the influx of cheaper ceramics from overseas markets is potentially bad news for some ceramics producers in the Gulf: “There is pressure on the market as a result of an influx of cheaper products from China.” “There has been a tremendous decrease in prices for commercial projects in Sharjah, Ajman and Dubai. But as far as Abu Dhabi is concerned — and some of Dubai — there is still a demand for mid- to high-range European products.” “Our materials mainly come from Europe and China. We do not supply any locally manufactured products. In terms of lead times, for European products you’re looking at 30 to 60 days (unless they’re made to specific designs i.e. mosaic); and for materials from China it’s between 45 to 60 days.” Another newcomer to the scene — and one which is benefiting from the region’s booming interiors market — is Turkish ceramics company Altin Çini, which has identified a demand for intricate Turkish and Ottoman designs in the Gulf. The Turkish ceramics sector has been expanding over recent years and the country is now the third biggest ceramic tiles producer and exporter in Europe (after Italy and Spain). Commercial production of ceramics began in the early 1960s; today there are approximately 20 000 people employed in the sector, and in 2004 Turkey produced 200 million m2 of ceramic tiles. Altin Çini has completed various projects in the Gulf, including three royal palaces in Oman. The company launched its new range of tile designs — produced exclusively for the Middle East market — during the ‘Made in Turkey’ Exhibition held in Dubai in June, in a bid to target the region’s prestigious buildings and hotels projects. “More and more architects and interior designers in the Middle East region are showing an interest in incorporating the traditional, colourful and intricate style of designs that is synonymous with Turkey’s rich cultural history,” says Sabit Acar, general manager. “We are now listening to that demand and reproducing these designs in modern products suitable for commercial and large scale structures.” “Having successfully incorporated our designs into the Oman and Salalah Palace Libraries and the Nizwa Qasr, we are now keen to expand our business in the Middle East, especially through links with up-market projects and the thriving hotel industry.” Saudi Arabia is already an important export destination for Altin Çini, and the company is in the final stages of signing an agreement with a Bahraini company. One local company that seems unfazed by the influx of overseas products is RAK Ceramics. Based in Ras Al Khaimah, the company is one of the world’s largest tile and sanitaryware manufacturers. It recently commissioned a US $49 million (AED180 million) manufacturing contract in the emirate, making its RAK plant the world’s largest single ceramic products plant. RAK Ceramics’ new factory, known as MC-8, is the ninth unit of RAK Ceramics in the emirate. It has a production capacity in excess of 35 000 m2 of high quality granite ceramic tiles per day. The factory also has three gres porcellanato (porcelain) ceramic production lines. “It’s a source of pride for the local and Arab industries to witness an Emirates company dictate its technological rules to the international production process,” says Dr Khater Massaad, CEO of RAK Ceramics. Unique patterns and finishes can be achieved, from classic and traditional designs to ultra modern styles incorporating the latest technology such as roto printing, double charge, granitech, advanced MDR, technoslate and dry glaze. Water jet cutting technology forms unique water jet designs, while diamond cutting machine tools can create vanity tops from gres porcellanato slabs. Dr Massaad added that in spite of RAK Ceramics’ recent major expansions, the company is nevertheless in a race to meet the ever-increasing demand on its high quality products in more than 130 markets across the world. RAK Ceramics is currently working on a host of projects in the UAE including the Burj Dubai, Dubai International City, Festival City, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Discovery Gardens, Dubai Silicon Oasis and Arabian Ranches. ||**||

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