Economic crisis affects cork industry

Cork producers in the Algarve may decide not to harvest their crop this year as bark is remaining unsold from one year to the next.

The region’s producers have been unable to sell their entire crop since 2007, and this situation has been exacerbated by the global economic crisis.

This problem, as well as the fall in the price of cork, has made producers question whether it is economically viable to harvest cork in 2009.

On a national level, 25 per cent of the cork harvested in 2008 has yet to be sold.

Producers told the national Portuguese newspaper Público that, in the Alentejo, harvested cork is accumulating in the fields and they have had to sell what they can at “ridiculous prices”.

Uncertain

Miguel Vieira, a spokesman from the regional association of forestry producers, APFSC, said that the fall in the price of the raw material also caused cases where the cork was kept because the price in the market was so low that it wasn’t worth selling it.

According to the APFSC, the future of this industry is uncertain since producers cannot easily change to another type of crop because it is illegal to fell cork oaks in Portugal.

“If the price is low, the producers won’t harvest the cork, they’ll harvest it the following year or in two years time,” said Miguel Vieira.

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