The Cork Industry

Raw Cork Production

Cork is harvested exclusively from the Cork Oak, Quercus suber, found predominantly in the Mediterranean region. Though the tree can flourish in many climates, the conditions that favor commercial use are fairly narrow. The major cork producing nations are listed below:

Uses of Natural Cork

Cork is used in a variety of products – from construction materials to gaskets and most importantly – as a stopper for premium wines. The cork industry employs an estimated 30,000 workers in a variety of jobs.

Wine corks are the most visible and most profitable of the many products derived from cork. In Portugal. they account for approximately 25% of total production by weight and 72% of cork revenues.

The following table displays a comparison of the different segments of the cork industry based on Portuguese estimated revenue in 2017:

A Sustainable Industry

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.

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