ATHENS, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Greek marble industry's collaboration with China has flourished in recent years and prospects for the future are bright, Julie Chaidas, President of the Association of Marble Enterprises of Macedonia-Thrace (SEMMTH), has said.
"I could say that Greece and China are connected by a marble bridge," Chaidas told Xinhua here in a recent interview.
About 50 percent of Greece's exportable marble goes to China. The percentage reaches 80 percent when it comes to raw unprocessed marble, she noted.
The two countries enjoy historically excellent relations and in recent years bilateral cooperation has a strong momentum of further development, Chaidas added.
The marble sector reflects this trend. In the first eleven months of 2021, exports to China rose by 35 percent compared to the same period in 2020, she told Xinhua, adding that there is room for closer cooperation.
"Greece is in fact ranked fourth in the world in marble export. We export 76 percent of our production to more than 120 countries worldwide," she said.
In the first eleven months of 2021, the Greek marble industry registered an increase of 25 percent in exports compared to same period in 2020, reaching 332 million euros (373 million U.S. dollars), according to Chaidas.
From Chaidas' view, Greece's marble industry has shown remarkable resilience, weathering many crises over the past decade by implementing a strategy that has helped multiply exports and turnover.
SEMMTH, which represents companies accounting for 80-90 percent of the country's primary production and exports in marble quantity and value, is moving forward with a strategic plan supported by the Greek state, aiming to strengthen the Greek marble brand name, she introduced.
"Greek marble has been well-known over time for its very good quality characteristics and for its wide variety of colors ... Parthenon is the ambassador of (Greek) marble," Chaidas said.
The Greek marble has been identified with the masterpieces of ancient Greek architecture and sculpture, such as the 2,500-year-old temples on the Acropolis hill, the Aphrodite of Milos or Hermes of Praxiteles.
Greek companies build on this legacy and Greek marble has been used also at the Shanghai Opera in China, according to Enterprise Greece, the country's official trade and investment promotion agency.
During the acute Greek debt crisis which brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy, the marble industry relied on foreign markets and thrived.
"For Greek marble companies, extroversion is the only way for their sustainable development ... In the decade 2008-2018, we managed as an industry not only to have no losses, but to increase our exports," Chaidas said.
In 2008, the total value of exports stood at 130 million euros and in 2018 it had reached 437 million euros, she explained.
Currently, there are 670 companies operating in this sector in Greece, Chaidas said. The sector employs directly 6,500 workers and indirectly 18,000 workers. (1 euro = 1.13 U.S. dollars) ■