Portugal's Global Leadership as the Premier Cork Exporter

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ten data blog19-01-2024

Portugal, a gem on the Iberian Peninsula sharing its borders with Spain, stands as a pivotal player in the global trade sphere. With a population of around 10.5 million, Portugal's geographical location along the Atlantic coast has been a cornerstone in shaping its history and economic prosperity. As European explorers embarked on the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal's influence reached the Americas and the Far East, leading to the establishment of colonies and widespread trade. Today, Portugal's wealth, marked by architectural wonders, is complemented by a thriving tourism industry. A substantial part of Portugal's economic strength lies in its exports, with cork being a significant natural product, propelling it to the forefront as a cork exporter dominating the global market.

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1. Portugal's Vast Cork Forests:

Portugal boasts the world's largest cork forest – Montado, spanning 1.8 million acres. The country exports approximately 65% of the world's cork and is a major importer for processing and subsequent cork export.

Record-breaking sales contribute to the growth of Portugal's key cork export markets, primarily driven by France and the United States, each accounting for around 18% of total exports. Other significant markets for Portuguese cork include Spain, Italy, Germany, the UK, and China.

2. Wine Industry Driving Cork Export Sales:

Despite advancements, the wine industry remains the primary consumer of natural cork stoppers, continuing its upward trajectory in 2024. The inherent characteristics of cork make it an ideal choice for sealing wines, securing its place as the preferred closure for nearly 70% of wines. According to APCOR, cork stopper exports for the wine industry surpassed $890 million, constituting 73% of total cork export sales, showcasing a clear preference for this material.

3. Diversification into Construction and Design:

While the majority of cork exports still find their place in the wine industry, the construction and design sectors experienced a growth exceeding 12% last year. The natural properties and cellular structure of cork, resistant to liquid penetration and wear, make it a versatile material. With gas-filled cells akin to air, cork exhibits extreme flexibility, finding applications in various products, from insulation materials to furniture, and even in the automotive and aerospace industries.


Portugal's distinction as the world's leading cork exporter is deeply ingrained in its historical legacy and commitment to sustainable practices. From the wine industry to construction, the adaptability of cork makes it a prized commodity on the global stage. As Portugal continues its journey in international trade, cork exports not only stand as a testament to its rich history but also as a beacon for a sustainable and eco-conscious future.

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