Cork forests, known as Montados, provide great social and economic value. The majority of cork production, which is close to 70%, is used in the wine industry for cork stoppers. Another 13% goes to the construction industry to be used as insulation, flooring, wall coverings, and more. It was calculated in 2010 that over 100,000 people depend on cork production for employment.
Besides raw cork material, there are many other economic benefits provided by cork forests. For example, acorns and leaves are used for food oils and compost, while herbs and mushrooms are grown for medicinal and gastronomical uses. In the forests of Andalusia in Spain, mushroom farming is a long standing tradition as well as an important part of the local economy. Other local economic industries provided by cork forests, include game hunting and rural tourism, which both are great sources of employment.
Portugal is the world’s largest cork producer and the world’s largest cork importer. They account for 50% of cork production, followed by Spain with 35% of production. In 2015, Portugal exported a total value of 899.3 million euros of cork, making them the leader of the industry.
The demand for cork has been growing over the last decade by main economic players like Germany, Italy, and the United States. According to APCOR (Portuguese Cork Association) world production of cork in 2016 rose to 201,000 tons. The overall positive and consistent trend is great news for the cork economy and we hope it continues.