Demand for mineral products rebounded in 2021

Asphalt sales have maintained a historically high level of activity for the past 18 months

Demand for mineral products, such as aggregates, concrete, asphalt and mortar in Britain recorded double-digit growth during 2021.

The latest industry survey from the Mineral Products Association (MPA) shows that volumes of primary aggregates increased by 15.7% in 2021 – 14.1% for ready-mixed concrete, 12.5% for asphalt and 24.4% for mortar. MPA members supply 90% of total market demand in Great Britain, the organisation claims.

 Survey results also show that construction demand remained strong in the final quarter of the year, despite supply bottlenecks, cost increases and uncertainty over the Omicron variant. Sales volumes of aggregates and ready-mixed concrete grew by 3.8% and 5.9% respectively in 2021 Q4 compared to the previous quarter. Asphalt and mortar sales recorded small quarterly declines but total demand in volume remained high.

Overall, the recovery in mineral products demand last year has been faster than expected but also  imbalanced, the MPA said. For instance, aggregates and asphalt sales in 2021 exceeded pre-pandemic levels in 2019 but sales of ready-mixed concrete and mortar were still weaker.

Asphalt and aggregates demand was supported by an acceleration in infrastructure work, including roads and major infrastructure projects such as HS2. Asphalt sales have maintained a historically high level of activity for the past 18 months, with producers working to meet pent-up demand from delayed road projects due to the pandemic. That is in addition to the demand stemming from government’s Road Investment Strategy 2 programme and an increase in demand from local authorities for repair and maintenance work.

By contrast, ready-mixed concrete sales in 2021 were 6.7% below 2019 volumes, with demand held back by the comparatively weaker recovery in new commercial tower projects. Mortar sales in 2021 were also lower than in 2019 but a robust pipeline of new housing starts and residential building contracts should support further growth in mortar demand this year.

At the start of 2022, feedback from MPA producer members indicates that Omicron has not caused major disruptions, whilst the number of positive Covid cases affecting employees was reported to have fallen back compared to the end of December.

MPA sales volumes in GB: change on the previous period (seasonally adjusted) 

 AsphaltReady-mixed concrete*Crushed rockSand & gravelMortar
2021 Q1-4.90%1.60%4.10%1.90%-7.40%
2021 Q24.50%1.20%-0.90%0.90%21.20%
2021 Q3-4.30%-6.70%-4.80%-10.70%-3.70%
2021 Q4-0.30%5.90%3.40%4.90%-0.70%
2021 v 20192.80%-6.70%5.60%-0.80%-4.70%

* Ready-mixed concrete sales volumes at GB level cover sales from both fixed and site (mobile) plants. Source: MPA, ONS.

The MPA forecasts aggregates and ready-mixed concrete sales to grow by 3.0% year on year in 2022, 4.0% for asphalt and 6.5% for mortar.

MPA director of economic affairs Aurelie Delannoy said: “Momentum in infrastructure will be the key driver behind that growth, assuming work continues to progress on major projects such as HS2, Hinkley Point C and Thames Tideway, and the delivery of five-year programmes in the regulated sectors matches current commitments.”

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