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Production and trade analysis in the Iberian cork sector: Economiccharacterization of a forest industry

2015 / Jorge Sierra-Péreza, Jesús Boschmonart-Rives, Xavier Gabarrell

Resources, Conservation and Recycling 98 (2015) 55–66

Cork oak forest grows endemically in the coastal regions of the western Mediterranean basin, particularlyin the Iberian Peninsula. The cork agro-forestry systems play a key role in ecological processes, and theouter bark, or cork, can be extracted sustainability without damaging the tree or affecting biodiversity.Because of the properties of the cork, an important forestry and industrial structure has been developedaround its most valuable goods. This paper describes the current global trade patterns in the IberianPeninsula, where Portugal and Spain are world leaders. Although these countries bring most of their corktrade flows together with the rest of the world, there are clear differences between these sectors. The aimof this study was to identify these differences and to characterize each analysed sector from an economicperspective. The primary difference between the sectors lies in the characteristics of their supply chainand their capacity to generate wealth from raw cork. Portugal primarily produces and processes raw corkinto products with high added value. Spain bases its cork sector on raw material and half-manufacturedcork, and it is not able to use the full potential that cork provides. Catalonia is an exception because itis the global leader in the champagne stopper market. To encourage the development of the entire corksector, every link in the supply chain should be strengthened through the establishment of companiesand the generation of employment, and therefore the development of rural areas. Moreover, this industrymust establish its own development strategies for the future, thereby increasing its investment in R&Dand innovation in relation to the opportunities identified as follows: the potential for diversificationbeyond the wine market, the improvement potential for forest management and the enhancement ofsustainability and eco-efficiency in every link of the cork supply chain. Keywords:Cork industryInternational tradeIberian PeninsulaCork supply chainNatural resource economicsSustainabilitya.