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File photo of a previous cork harvest in Cortes de la Frontera. Karl Smallman
Serranía de Ronda faces challenging cork harvest with plummeting purchase prices
 

Serranía de Ronda faces challenging cork harvest with plummeting purchase prices

Producers, who believe the lack of demand is impacting on prices, are still hopeful of a good season following the late rains in spring

Vanessa Melgar

Ronda

Wednesday, 12 June 2024, 10:38

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With summer almost here, it is time for workers to return to the mountains of the Serranía de Ronda to carry out one of the most traditional activities in the area: cork harvesting. The trade is still alive, although not without difficulties, as it is a tough job with cork cutters facing extreme conditions such as harsh terrain and high temperatures.

This year there is great concern among producers, as prices are plummeting. Francisco Boza, producer in the Genal valley and head of the sector at COAG Andalucía said: "We have come from some very good years for the producer, around five, in which cork has been sold at around 70, 80, 90 and even 100 euros per quintal per tree; and now sales are being made, timidly, at 50, 60. Things have come to a halt, at this point, and sales are closing."

On the possible causes, Boza said they are not known for sure and that they may be due to a lack of demand. "There is cork in the yards of the producers and handlers from last season, we do not know the cause very well, because last year little cork was harvested due to the drought, it seems that it would be the lack of demand, we hope that as the season goes on, sales will pick up and the situation will improve." Portugal is the main buyer of the cork that comes out of the Serranía de Ronda, Boza added.

A previous cork harvest in Cortes de la Frontera, in the Serranía de Ronda. Karl Smallman
Imagen principal - A previous cork harvest in Cortes de la Frontera, in the Serranía de Ronda.
Imagen secundaria 1 - A previous cork harvest in Cortes de la Frontera, in the Serranía de Ronda.
Imagen secundaria 2 - A previous cork harvest in Cortes de la Frontera, in the Serranía de Ronda.

As far as quality is concerned, Boza pointed out that it is expected to be good, due to the fact that the trees are still healthy following rains in spring. "The harvest year is going to be good because of the rains during Easter, the grove is still very beautiful, there are trees that are still shedding their leaves in the Genal Valley, but as I said, the problem this year is the prices. With this situation, we are once again not profitable, the producers are waiting eight, nine years to harvest the cork and dedicate this money to the maintenance of the cork oak grove," he said.

Economic boost

In the Ronda region, the main production areas are located in the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, which includes, in Malaga province, Cortes de la Frontera (the largest) and Ronda. The councils of these municipalities receive a substantial amount of money each year that benefits their municipal coffers. In the case of Ronda, in 2023, the sale of cork brought in around 730,000 euros. A production of around 230,000 kilos was sold to a company in Talavera de la Reina.

Cortes forecasts a harvest of over one million kilos and the Genal valley also stands out, with Jubrique, Genalguacil, Algatocín and Benarrabá, among others.

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