Tag Archive for: export

‘Those who care about their grandchildren plant cork oak trees – Portuguese saying

Cork has been around for thousands of years in the western Mediterranean. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used it for fishing gear, sandals, and sealing of jugs, jars, and barrels. As glass bottles gained popularity in the 18th century, cork became the preferred wine stopper because it is durable, waterproof, and pliable.

Nowadays cork is experiencing a revival as more industries are looking for sustainable alternatives to plastic and other materials derived from fossil fuels. The bark is used for flooring, furniture, clothes, footwear, bags, and hats and as an effective thermal and acoustic insulation in buildings and electric car batteries. It is resistant to water and oil and very durable, remaining virtually unchanged for many years.

The slow-growing cork oak tree – scientifically known as Quercus suber – is the source of this eco-friendly material. Portugal has one of the largest cork oak forests in the world, covering vast areas in the poor soil of the dry Alentejo province. The country is the world’s largest producer and cork its most exported product, reaching over 1 billion euros and being sold in over 130 countries.

But cork is more than a sustainable and fashionable material. In addition to providing employment, the forests absorb CO2. Unlike most trees, evergreen cork oaks are never cut down as they are protected by law. This means that their carbon storage capacity continues through the 200 years or more they live.

The bark can only be harvested between May and August by experienced workers who carefully strip the outer layer without damaging the trunk. The cork oak is unique in regenerating its bark. Once it is removed, the last number of that year is applied with white paint on the exposed trunk – a 4 means bark was harvested in 2014 – after which the tree will be ready for another harvest nine years later.

Although cork forests can help mitigate global warming and the thick bark protects the tree from fire, they are increasingly at risk as wildfires become more frequent and more intense. Especially in the first two years after the cork is extracted, the trees are vulnerable to wildfires as the trunk is without protection.

Recycled cork can also be used to make other products. More than 300.000 corks were needed to make a mosaic of Nobel laureate José Saramago, which was credited to the Guinness Book of Records in 2014. Meanwhile Green Cork – a recycling program started by the environmental organization Quercus – has recycled more than 100 million cork stoppers since 2009.

Enjoy the week                     Aproveite a semana               (pic WashPost)

‘Look for the persons who benefit and you will know’ – Lenin

The four biggest economies in the Eurozone – Germany, France, Italy, and Spain – together represent two-thirds of the European Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an important indicator of economic health.

The Portuguese economy is relatively small – representing 1.5% of the European GDP – and surpassed by countries with less population like the Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, and Ireland. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts a growth in the Portuguese economy of 2.6% this year and stabilization at around 2% in the medium term, with a fall in inflation to 5.6%. Earlier this year, the IMF had predicted a growth of just 1%. The above-expected growth is mainly attributed to an increase in tourism – after the coronavirus pandemic – and the export of goods.

According to the Portuguese Government, export is increasing and represents 40% of its GDP. Cork is the most exported product – sold to 133 countries – reaching a record of 1.2 billion euros in 2021.

The quality newspaper Expresso disclosed that wine exportations last year  – especially to the US, the UK, Canada, and Brazil – amounted to almost 1 billion euros. Portuguese wine is popular in every continent especially because of its original products like Green Wine, Port, and Madeira Wine.

Moreover, the country is the 4th biggest exporter of olive oil in the world and exports plenty of shoes, clothing, vegetables, and bicycles.

Last year a downward trend in debt and deficit was common in the Eurozone where public debt stood at 92% of GPD – four percentage points lower than at the end of 2021.Eurostat revealed that Portugal was able to register an even more pronounced reduction (eleven percentage points) in 2022, putting its actual public debt at 114%.

Even so, the Portuguese debt remains one of the highest of the 27 member states, just behind Greece and Italy.

The financial rating agency Fitch recently reaffirmed the assessment of the Portuguese debt at BBB+.
The robust reduction in public debt was also highlighted by the US agency, which forecasts that the Portuguese debt will further decrease to 105% next year. 

Even though Portugal’s economy has grown above the EU average this year, it still has one of the lowest growth rates in the world.

According to the newspaper Expresso, the GDP in the country has grown at a mean rate of only 1.2% per year since 1999 and is unlikely to change its course by 2028.

Enjoy the week            Aproveite a semana                                     (pic Público/Sapo)

Amidst the height of the country’s fight against Covid-19, the Democratic Union of Nurses in Portugal Sindepor went on a five-day ‘wake-up call’ strike last week, during which only minimum services were provided.

Carlos Ramalho, the president of the syndicate, declared that the walkout was necessary as the nurses are exhausted and their situation in the SNS (National Health Service) deteriorating.

‘We are talking about a process of many years in which the problems have not been resolved by the Government. At this point, the work overload is such that nurses can’t take anymore’.

The union leader further stresses that Portugal is one of the OECD countries with the least number of nurses per 1,000 inhabitants. 

At the same time, the Ordem dos Enfermeiros (Order of Nurses) expressed concern about the recruitment of Portuguese nurses in Europe, revealing that hunting for nurses has intensified from countries such as Spain, the UK and the Netherlands.

These countries are offering lucrative annual contracts for hospitals and nursing homes. From Spain, there have been contracts with offers of 30,000 euros per year, almost double the salary in Portugal. The Netherlands on the other hand is providing – in addition to an ample salary – accommodation, transport and travel.

The OE recalls that ‘although the recognition of the nurses is unanimous, there is no incentive nor decent pay’. Last year more than 4,000 nurses asked the order for a declaration for emigration purposes, a record number that tripled compared to 2017 and represents an increase of 68% compared to 2018.

‘Given the severe situation we are going through – after nine months into the pandemic – it is imperative that the way nurses are hired as well as their working conditions must be improved. There are almost 20,000 nurses abroad and the Government should be concerned with creating means for them to return’, declared OE’s chairwoman Ana Rita Cavaco.

‘We just can’t afford to export more nurses’.

Keep fit                Fique saudável                                 (pic Público/Sapo)