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Pilot course for the new cork peeler certificate that will contribute to the professionalization of a profession of the future

The cork cam course of the cork oaks (Quercus suber) that is being held these days in Cassà de la Selva will allow the first batch of students to be prepared to pass the exam and obtain the first official peeler certifications. This new certification, the first to be obtained in Europe, is part of the project SURROGATE, promoted from Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, and seeks to assimilate to the European chainsaw license for value the profession, professionalize it, ensure generational succession and increase productivity through the inclusion of factors such as forest management or cam mechanization.

Today the Director General of Forests and Environmental Management, Anna Sanitjas and Olea, and the president of the Institut Català del Suro Foundation, John Puig, have followed up and talked to the trainees who are taking this cork cam course for the first time and which will allow them to obtain an official card. They took the opportunity to explain the situation of the Catalan cork sector and the objectives set together.

Maximize the consumption of Catalan cork

The Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda has begun the development of the Cork Strategic Plan with a horizon of 2050, a process he has entrusted to the Institut Català del Suro Foundation. The Plan, which is carried out in a consensual manner, aims to socio-economically energize the Catalan cork sector, in order to improve its competitiveness and ensure its long-term forestry and industrial viability. The milestones are to reach a 75% of managed area of Catalan cork by the year 2030 and to also have the 75% of global purchases of Catalan cork be made to Catalan companies. Right now, the demand for cork from the Catalan industry is estimated at around 9,500 tonnes/year, so practically the entire supply of Catalan cork could be absorbed by the local cork industry. In relation to current management, approximately less than half of the cork surface is not managed and therefore has low levels of exploitation.

Acquire skills to make the activity more efficient and sustainable

The total area covered by cork in Catalonia is around 124,000 hectares. In addition to the low productivity of the corks, damage during peeling due to lack of professionalization and the high operating costs reduce the economic productivity of the forestry activity. The peeling work, if not done well, can cause losses for the next 50 years and, for this reason, the workforce and hiring of qualified people is essential.

In this pilot edition of the cam course, ten students are taking part, some novices and others with previous experience in the sector. The teachers and examiners of the course are active professionals in the cork field. The purpose is to check the effectiveness of the cork peeling manual, certification standards or examination sheets that have been developed and validated according to the criteria of the project's panel of experts. The purpose of this documentation is for the candidate to learn and demonstrate that they have acquired sufficient skills to maintain tools and machinery, prepare the tree for camming and extract an adequate amount of cork from it efficiently and safely .

The results of this course were presented at a technical day at the Santa Coloma de Farners Agricultural and Forestry School, where the results of another demonstration project led by the Institut Català del Suro Foundation were also presented in the framework of the same call: "Diffusion of new cork management techniques to improve its productivity and resilience". This is the continuation of a project started in 2014 and coordinated by the Consorci Forestal de Catalunya, in which different silvicultural treatments were applied in demonstration stands to improve their vitality, prevent fires and restore degraded cork. The results of this new assessment have made it possible to analyze the ecosystem services they offer and their influence on cork production.

This course is part of the SUROCAT project funded by the Department of Climate Action, it is led by Forestry Science and Technology Center of Catalonia (CTFC) and has the participation of theAgricultural and Forestry School of Santa Coloma de Farners, the Forestry Consortium of Catalonia (CFC), the Consorci de les Gavarres and the Catalan Institute of Cork Foundation.

Those interested in training and becoming certified as cork peelers can contact us at icsuro@icsuro.com.

The ecological value of the Catalan cork industry triples the socio-economic value

This is an indispensable trade for the proper functioning of the cork industry, given that the use of corks and cork products contributes positively to our environment by offering benefits such as the preservation of cork biodiversity, the fixation of carbon dioxide carbon in the atmosphere, reducing the risk of fires or promoting the bioeconomy. In fact, it is estimated that the ecological value of the Catalan cork industry, of up to 660 MEUR, triples its socio-economic value, of around 215 MEUR.

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