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What in the World?

By Mark S. Kuhar

In the United States, we tend to focus exclusively on our own market, since exports are minimal. But did you ever wonder about the worldwide demand for aggregates?

That market is expected to increase 5.2 percent per year through 2015 to 48.3 billion metric tons, according to Cleveland-based market-research firm The Freedonia Group. This represents a slower rate of growth than during the 2005-2010 period, reflecting a moderation in aggregates-intensive nonbuilding construction activity. Nevertheless, demand for construction aggregates will still post solid gains from 2010 to 2015.

The Asia/Pacific region will register the largest increases in product sales, as nonbuilding, nonresidential building and residential building construction activity will all rise rapidly, particularly in China, India and Indonesia. China alone will account for half of all new aggregates demand worldwide, and the Asia/Pacific market will account for more than seventenths of global growth during the 2010- 2015 period.

The Eastern Europe and Africa/Mideast regions are also expected to undergo sizable expansion in consumption of construction aggregates, stimulated by infrastructure development projects and strong growth in general economic activity. While the Central and South American market will climb at a somewhat slower pace, aggregates suppliers will benefit from solid gains in regional construction spending.

Expansions in demand in developed parts of the world – the U.S., Canada, Japan, Western Europe, South Korea and Australia – will not be as strong as in most industrializing areas. This is primarily due to the already well-developed and extensive infrastructures found in these countries and construction methods that tend to utilize less concrete. However, most developed world markets, driven by an acceleration in GDP growth and sharp rebounds in construction spending in North America and Western Europe, will post solid gains after contracting between 2005 and 2010.

Demand for aggregates used in residential building construction will grow the fastest through 2015, driven primarily by a rebound in spending in industrialized nations following a period of decline. In addition, growing populations and increased demand for urban housing in rapidly industrializing parts of the world will contribute to increases in residential building aggregates sales.

However, the nonbuilding construction market for aggregates will remain the largest in 2015 and will post the best gains from 2010 to 2015 in absolute terms. Significant investments in infrastructure development by industrializing countries will combine with the extensive maintenance needed for nonbuilding structures in developed nations to drive sales gains.

Due to more restrictive land use and environmental regulations, as well as the depletion of natural aggregates reserves, sales of recycled, secondary and other aggregates will climb at an above-average pace during the 2010-2015 period. However, despite expanding 7.1 percent per year over this span, these products will continue to play a rather small role in world aggregates markets due to quality concerns and the limited availability of feed material.

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