Sept. 12 - After a couple of sober years, Spain's cork industry is enjoying a revival thanks to new production methods that has lessened the chance of cork taint. Hayley Platt reports.
It takes 14 years before cork is ripe for harvest and the industry here in Spain's Catalonia region is ancient. Anotonio Gorgot is a third generation producer. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FOREST WORKER, ANTONIO GORGOT, SAYING: "The trees here grow very slowly. In other areas they are spaced out. But here they are in the middle of a jungle." Spain has been exporting cork since the 19th century. But a few years ago the industry almost dried up. Sales dropped dramatically over fears of contamination known as cork taint. Producers switched to plastic stoppers and screw tops. But new production methods have made the cork less liable to taint and the sector is thriving once again. Last year more than 300 million euros' worth of cork was sold abroad. The Catalan Cork Institute says it's a vital source of work in a struggling part of the euro zone. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MANEL PRETEL, HEAD OF THE CATALAN CORK INSTITUTE (ICC), SAYING: "It may not be as important nowadays as it was before, but we have around 1,200 workers and the region depends on the business to mantain its economy." It's not time to open the champagne yet - Cork isn't going to solve Spain's problems. The country still has the highest levels of unemployment in the euro zone and half its young people are out of work. But the revival of one of its oldest industries is a small bright spot in a country which is otherwise drowning in recession. Hayley Platt, Reuters.