In Portugal there are economic sectors that show development even with the present economic crisis. The cork industry is a good example.
It exports over 700 million euros and its national and international image is growing in importance constantly, being cork products increasingly recognized for their eco-friendly nature. In fact, Portugal is the largest exporter of cork products in the world.
Cork stoppers for wine bottles are the main product of the industry still representing 60% of total exports. But the industry broke with the pattern it had in the past and new fields of application have been explored with success:
Products related to construction applied as insulation, flooring, and coatings, stand for 15% of total exports. The automotive industry, clothing, footwear, various fashion products for men or women (bags, wallets, purses, jewellery), sleeves for notebooks, tableware, furniture and lighting, all take advantage of the properties of cork.
Thus, renewal has been the way for cork industry to go beyond tradition and so the sector is bringing to market a growing and wider range of products, diversifying in order to avoid being completely dependent on the performance of a single product, the stopper, and conquering new market segments.
Crisis in the international economy
At the peak of the crisis in international markets in 2009, the sector lost a lot of sales but now shows signs of improvement despite the current Portuguese economic crisis, which will not have an high impact on the sales, because cork companies are increasing their exports for most of the importing countries, like France, the USA, Germany, the UK, Germany, Spain, etc.
Although the national crisis may create certain social tension, the cork sector will very probably not be a generator of unemployment, due to the good sales previews reported by most of the firms.