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Morocco pilots new and more efficient technique for harvesting cork

Corks stoppers at a factory in Portugal   -  
Copyright © africanews
Armando Franca/AP


Next time you open a bottle of wine, spare a thought for what goes into producing the cork. The bark tissue is not only used for wine, but also in the fashion and building industries.

Morocco, which produces about 6 per cent of natural cork globally, is transforming the way it harvests, moving away from the axe to a smarter and more efficient method.

The industry is introducing a new lightweight battery-powered saw that calculates the depth of the cork bark.

This method is not only more efficient in removing the bark but it also reduces damage to the trees, says Abderrahim Houmy, director general of the National Agency for Water and Forests.

"The second objective is to increase the cork harvest. Thanks to this technology, we can get large-size boards and avoid small pieces that have a low value in the market.”

Houmy says the new technology will also help the industry adapt to changes in the  harvesting season, which has become variable and shorter as a result of climate change.

A pilot programme to train cork technicians is currently underway in the Rabat-Salé-Kenitra region with the aim of rolling out the new method across Morocco by 2025.

According to the Moroccan Association of Cork Industrialists, the sector has faced two years marked by relentless drought, which caused unprecedented stagnation in the industry.

Its president, Mohamed Anas, is confident that implementing the new technology will help give the industry in Morocco the reboot it desperately needs.

"With this machine, we will work in a cleaner and healthier way.  This means that the machine will take care of the tree's bark which will result in fewer injuries as it was the case in the past when we used axes,” he says.

As for the technicians, they say swapping axe for saw will not only make their work easier, but will increase their earnings by allowing them to produce more cork in a shorter period.

Government data for 2023 shows Morocco exported 7,021 tonnes of cork products, bringing approximately $20.5 million into the economy.

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