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Ceramic Industry In Iran
Ceramic Industry is one of the oldest industries in the world. Due to the abundance of raw material, namely soil and ease of production, ceramic objects are one of the oldest and most ancient signs of the early man ever found. As far as archeological findings and excavations are considered, Iran is the primary birthplace of this industry. And it was from Iran that the industry expanded to other parts of the globe. The first ever-excavated ceramic objects belonging to 10 to 12 thousand years ago were explored in Zagros mountain range in Iran. They were made manually using neither a clay wheel nor an oven for baking the clay. The discovered items in Silk Hills in Kashan (belonging to 8,000 year B.C.) and the discovered items in Susa (belonging to 2,700 B.C.) are indicative of the acquaintance and knowledge of their residents with an oven to bake the clay. During a developing trend Iran's ceramics flourished more to reach a turning point during Safavid's era. Exceptional and marvelous items were created in that era. Decorating historical monuments and buildings inclusive of mosques in Isfahan and other Iranian towns. The production of tiles suffered stagnation after the Safavad's era giving way to imported European china.

The industry suffered stagnation even further until 1960. Before then tiles were produced manually. Then Irana tile factory, the first manufacturer of tiles, was inaugurated. This was a turning point. Later Sa'di, Hafiz and Isfahan factories followed the suit. Later a few china factories were inaugurated to manufacture china- ware and sanitary ware. Unfortunately the activity of all factories was halted after the 1979 Revolution and during the Imposed War. But later during the First and Second Five Year Economic Development Plans (FYEDP) activities were restored and during the Second FYEDP the total production in the industry witnessed a 12.6% increase on the average. During 1999 the production of tiles exceeded 61 million sq. m and ceramics in general 82,000 tons. Over 22,000 workers were working in this industry. Three outstanding factors are responsible for the flourishing of the prosperous tile manufacturing business in Iran: one is abundance of soil as the raw material; the second is inexpensive energy sources and the third one cheap labor and high unemployment rate (there are plenty job applicants available). The products of this industry are divided into four categories: Tiles, sanitary ware, chinaware and industrial ceramics. The objective of this report is to study such classification.
1 - Wall and floor tiles :
Tile industry is ten thousand years old. Tiles used to be manually produced in small workshops before 1960. Then Irana tile factory was inaugurated. This was a turning point. Later Sa'di, Hafiz and Isfahan factories became operational to boost the production volume of machine made tiles. The above 5 factories were producers of wall tiles before the Revolution.
But Nilu, Yazd, Alborz and Gilan factories were making floor tiles. Establishment of new factories after the Revolution brought their number to 16 units in 1994, with a total capacity of 37.3 million square meters in the same year. As the production volume boosted gradually, the number of production units was brought to 30 in 1999 with an annual capacity of 67.1 million sq. m. 15 units of which were allotted to production of wall tiles with 47.4 million sq. m. capacity, while the remaining 15 units were producers of floor tiles with 19.7 million sq. m. capacity. Such figures were indicative of 87.5% and 89.8% boost in number and capacity respectively compared to five years earlier. The production volume of tile manufacturers reached 60.9 million sq. m in the year 1999, indicating 8.7% growth compared to a year earlier and 65% growth compared to five years before that. The total number of the staff in the aforementioned production units equaled 14,000 people in that year (with 4,350 sq. m. per capita) and 91% output as the nominal production capacity. Such output fluctuated between 90% and 100% during the said Five Year Plans.
The total volume of tiles produced in the world amounted to nearly 4,764 million sq. m. in the year 1999 (2,200 million sq. m. in Asia and 1,430 million sq. m. in the European Union), while 1.2% of the said sum (figure) was produced in Iran, making us the 15th country in the world in this regard. The total global per capita consumption in the same year equaled to 0.7, while in Iran it was 0.8. The domestic sale volume of tile was 55.4 million sq. m. during 1999, totaling 1,385 billion rials, indicating a 72% increase in weight and 424.5% in value compared to five years earlier. Due to the commissioning of several factories, a remarkable growth has been witnessed in the Iranian tile industry during the recent years. Using the new technology and a notable diversification in plans and production a drastic change abruptly improved the tile industry. Not only the domestic requirements were met by such a boost in production volume, but also the way was favorably paved for tile export. Over 5.5 million sq. m. of tiles amounting to US $16.3 million were exported in 1999, indicating a decline of %8.3 and %6.8 respectively compared to a year earlier. The decline was mainly caused by global depression and stagnation as well as an international price fall. During this year 9% of the total Iranian exports belonged to tiles. Iranian tiles have been mostly exported to Canada, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf states, Africa as well as Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Denmark.
2 - Sanitary ware :
The first manufacturer of sanitary ware products, Pars Ceram, was constructed and opened in 1969 in Qarchak, Varamine. Two other such factories, Mina and Armitaj (Gol-Nama) were later built and inaugurated to launch their production line. Meeting the domestic requirements of such products, prior to that, was totally dependent on imports from Europe. However as the government attached more significance to boosting the domestic production in recent years, a giant step has been taken in this regard. While enjoying promotion of technology in production, enhancement of quality, diversification and a wide range of varieties in this industry have been witnessed. The production capacity of the aforementioned first three factories totaled 22,000 tons back in 1979. But this figure jumped to 51,000 tons in 1999, indicating a remarkable 232% growth compared to 1979. The number of production units also boosted to 9 indicating 200% increase. Also in the same year 2,700 workers were employed with a production of 19 tons per capita. In 1999 some 6,136 tons of sanitary ware were exported amounting to $2 million. This figure was indicative of 19% and 12% increase respectively compared to a year before.
3 - Chinaware :
It is evident that the ceramic pots and dishes have been made for ages. The industry of making such items is one of the most ancient ones, as based on the excavated and discovered items we know that since thousands of years ago man has been making them in order to meet her/his needs. Clay pots and objects were made in Iran using argil (red soil or clay) for ages. Not only Iranians made clay pots but also sculptures. The traditional way of making clay objects is still used in some provinces such as Hamedan and Khorasan. As the machine was introduced in the Iranian china industry four factories namely Kabon, Alborz, Pars China and Air Porcelain (Gilan) launched their production activity with a total annual capacity of 4,780 tons of dishes and pots and other chinaware products before 1979. Up to the year 1980 about 30,000 tons was the domestic annual demand for above products, 80% of which was met by imports. But during that year, the government banned the import of chinaware and consequently the number of relevant factories was increased. Thirteen production units with an annual nominal capacity of 16,000 tons were active in 1984.
The number of chinaware factories reached 18 in 1999 with a nominal capacity of 35,650 tons per annum. This figure reached 46,200 tons a year later. The actual output of above factories in 1999 amounted to 39,100 tons indicating 65% rise compared to 5 years earlier. Some 9,500 people were working in the industry. Production per capita was 4 tons with 110% yield (nominal capacity of production). The output of chinaware factories during the above 5 years fluctuated between 89% and 110%. Germany produces the best quality of chinaware in the world, but The Republic of China ranks first in the world in quantity for production of chinaware including dishes, pots etc. Iran's consumption per capita was 0.6 kg in 1999. During the same year the domestic consumption (sale) level of such products equaled to 38,147 tons with a value amounting to 534 billion rials. These figures are indicative of 65% and 192% rise in weight and value respectively compared to five years earlier.
The export volume of chinaware to the Persian Gulf littoral States, Canada, Turkey and the Central Asian countries amounted to 953 tons or $1.1 million in value in 1999. These figures are indicative of 56.7% and 120% rise in weight and value respectively compared to a year earlier. Thus 2.5% of the country's total export volume was allocated to chinaware in that year.
4 - Industrial Ceramics:
Great significance is attached to the industrial ceramics in the advanced ceramics, as industrial ceramics are one of the major requirements of advanced industry. Electricity, metal melting (in steel mills) and the textile industries are great need of the industrial ceramics. The country's demand for industrial ceramics used to be entirely met through imports in the past. However, the adoption of self- sufficiency policies during the recent years by the government has caused great significance to be attached to domestic production of such items. Thus, three industrial units comprising 658 staff launched the production of this product in 1999 with 8,850 tons yield. This volume not only met the domestic requirements but also paved the way for export of such products. The total value of exported industrial ceramics was merely $200,000 in this year.
Conclusion :
Iran is one of the pioneers of tiles and ceramics industries in the world, as evident by countless ancient objects discovered during archeological excavations in various parts of the country. Such discoveries inclusive of new tile plans and chinaware are indicative of Iranians' artistic aptitude as well as originality in making ceramics including clay pots and tiles. They indicate the ancient history behind such industry as an art in Iran. The archeological monuments and historical buildings are decorated by fine and spectacular tile-work of the artists. The abundance of rich argil mines (red clay as the raw material for ceramics industry), availability of highly knowledgeable and expert manpower inclusive of cheap skilled labor and abundance of inexpensive energy sources comparatively provide Iran with an advantage in this industry.
The quality of the Iranian tile and chinaware is one of the best and the highest around the globe. Therefore Iran has the potential of playing a leading role in the world of ceramics in the future and consequently will undergo more development in this sector. Considering such potentials and availability of favorable grounds, Iran invites foreign investors to invest in this sector. Such potentials consist of great domestic and international demands. A market in neighboring states inclusive of the Persian Gulf Littoral States, and the Central Asian and Caucasian States are a great incentive for such investment in Iran. Fortunately, during the recent years extraordinary developments have been witnessed, i.e. production of this product has been increasingly grown during the last decade with a rise in export volume to other parts of the globe, Europe in particular. Hopefully, this industry will flourish even further through the application of more advanced technology by foreign investors.
Date: 7/6/2011