Attendees take in the new introductions at Expo Revestir, the largest ceramic tile show in Latin America.
Courtesy Brazilian Association of Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Attendees take in the new introductions at Expo Revestir, the largest ceramic tile show in Latin America.

Last week at Expo Revestir 2010—the ceramic tile industry’s Fashion Week in Latin America—Brazilian tile makers predicted that 2010 and beyond will likely bring back the explosive growth that South America’s largest ceramic tile market experienced in the last five years. Particularly, the industry hopes to stem the tide of reduced exports to the U.S. market, which has been lagging in recent years as residential construction has been in a tailspin and the American economy hobbles along.

Despite seeing exports drop by 25% in 2009 compared to the previous year, the mood among exhibitors and attendees was optimistic. Driving this hope is the expected demand for products in its domestic construction sector, which is predicted to grow by 15%.

"The expectations for this market in 2010 are the best,” Antonio Carlos Kieling, CEO of the Brazilian Association of Ceramic Tile Manufacturers, told journalists at a press conference on March 9. “Two years after the crisis that shook the whole world economy, we expect our field to present an increase of 8.47% in its figures, which is an [impressive] number."

Kieling said that the national production capacity of the ceramic industry should exceed 850 million square meters in 2010, and a large portion of this will be used within the country.

"One indicator that directly contributes to this growth is undoubtedly the [Expo Revestir] fair, which will generate approximately $150 million in business,” he said. “This represents almost 10% more when compared to the previous edition.”

Much like Coverings in the United States, Cevisama in Spain, and Cersaie in Italy, Expo Revestir gives Latin American tile makers the chance to display their wares as well as the trends they feel will dominate the coming year. The show is the region’s largest tile show, attracting about 45,000 visitors in the four-day event.

Even with the recent declines, Brazil is a major player in the world ceramic tile market. The country ranked second in world production with 713.4 million square meters in 2008, second only to China with 3.3 billion square meters. Italy ranks third with 527 million square meters, and Spain comes in fourth with 494.7 million square meters.

Tile distributors and dealers at the show said the Brazilian manufacturers are in a good position. The nation’s economy is booming, and most of these commercial and residential projects will use ceramic in interior and exterior applications.

In fact, Brazil is the second largest consumer of ceramic tile, and most of its products remain in the country. Unlike Italy, which exports 355 million square meters and Spain, which exports 305 million square feet of its tile, Brazil exports only 81.4 million square meters of the tiles it produces.

Brazil’s position in the North American market also took a hit in 2008, when the country’s exports to the U.S. totaled 15.2 million square meters. This figure is off from the 27.7 million square meters the country sent to the United States in 2007. In fact, after growing from 2002 to 2005, the country’s exports have declined for three years in a row.

Association officials could not predict what might happen with Brazilian exports to the United States.

Nigel F. Maynard is senior editor, products, at BUILDER magazine.