Today, the center of the world’s cork oak forest is concentrated on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula and the adjacent Mediterranean basin, where soil, temperature, rainfall and wind conditions are ideal. European forests account for two-thirds of cork oak production, while North Africa produces the remaining one-third. The total land surface occupied by the cork oak forests is 2.2 million hectares (5.434 million acres), of which Portugal and Spain represent 56%.
The cork industry employs more than 15,000 workers in factories devoted to converting raw cork and cork byproducts into commercial products. In addition, the industry employs thousands of seasonal workers for the cork harvest and the maintenance of the oak forests.
In the prime cork-growing region of Portugal, cork oaks and their harvest are protected by law in order to protect this valuable resource and ensure the quality of the harvest.