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The cement and lime industries are mature sectors, which are vital for a range of downstream industries, products and services. Over the last 10 years, both sectors have witnessed major downturns, and future prospects are less than certain. A key issue for both the cement and lime sectors and, in turn, for policy makers, is to better understand how resilient the sectors are when responding to external shocks, notably changes in demand, but also regulatory reforms and new initiatives (at EU, national, regional and local levels). Against this background, the aim of this study is to offer an assessment of the competitiveness of the EU cement and lime sectors.
Production – Due to its particular chemical characteristics, lime is a fundamental raw material used for a multitude of industrial processes and different economic activities (e.g. iron and steel production, water treatment, etc.). EU28 total production of lime products amounted to an estimated 23.9 million tonnes in 2016, compared to a peak production volume of 34.7 million tonnes in 2007. The largest EU producer is Germany, followed by France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Belgium.
Industry characteristics – In 2015, the most recent year of available comparative Eurostat data, the lime and plaster manufacturing industries in the EU represented an estimated €4.2 billion turnover and €1.4 billion in value added, with approximately 600 enterprises offering employment to almost 15 thousand persons in the EU. Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, Spain and Poland together accounted for 76% of total EU turnover of lime and plaster manufacturing, 64% of employment but only 43% of enterprises. The industry faced a decline in turnover between 2008 and 2009, with a fall of around 14%, followed by a slight rebound in 2010. It has remained relatively stable thereafter at around 90% of its 2008 level.
Trade perspective – China dominates the global lime production, while countries like India, Russia, Malaysia and South Korea show high growth rates over recent years. International trade in lime products is limited as the wide geographical availability of raw materials (i.e. limestone) and the low value to weight ratio means that lime is typically produced close to markets and is not transported over long distances. International trade in lime is also limited relative to EU production. This applies to both trade within the EU (intra-EU trade) as well as the exports out of the EU (extra-EU exports).