Portugal is the world leader in cork production, with an average annual output of 157,000 tons, and holds 60% of worldwide exports representing an annual turnover of about €850m. Cork stoppers represent the bigger share of this total with about €590m followed by building materials with about €177m. France, Spain and the US are the main foreign markets for Portuguese cork. Due to its characteristics, cork is much more than “just” a stopper. Cork is resistant, light, flexible, compressible and is an outstanding thermal and acoustic insulator and has also chemical or pharmaceutical uses.
With this profile cork has a wide range of uses. It is transformed into floor panels, decorative home or office applications, shoe soles, works of art, fashion articles, complements or acessories. The usage of cork in aircraft building is just one of the innovative applications of this environment friendly industry where “nothing is wasted, everything is transformed”. For instance, Airbus is replacing most plastic and rubber parts in aircrafts fuselage by Portuguese cork to increase safety conditions of the equipment and comfort of passengers and crew.
The cork industry is highly developed in Portugal. There are approximatly 800 companies operating in the industry, mainly in the north of the country, mobilising a work force of twelve thousand people. These companies operate in cork activities such as preparation, manufacture, agglomeration and granulation.
Barriers are competition in markets well established
Drivers are National and traditional product; Strong industrial segment
The use of cork will allow the substitution of fossil fuel based materials for natural materials, reducing the need to use non renewable sources.