Portugal is a coastal state in the southwestern region of Europe in the eastern section of the Iberian Peninsula. The territory of the nation also includes several archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean while Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar are among the states and features that border Portugal. Regarding area, Portugal occupies an area of about 35,560 square miles. 35,320 square miles of the total area is land while the remaining 240 square miles is water.
The nation, like all other nations, has a number of natural resources that it relies on for trade with other nations and economic development. With increased trade and development, the economy of Portugal has been on the rise steadily since 2014, which has also translated into reduced rates of unemployment. Some of the previously mentioned natural resources include fish, hydroelectric power, forests, arable land, lithium, marble tin, uranium, and tungsten.
Natural Resources of Portugal
Fishing is one of the major natural resources of Portugal. Consequently, it is a sector that the government has worked hard to ensure that it is wide and diversified as it is a major source of employment.
The fishing vessels used by the fishermen can be classified according to the areas they operate. There are some which operate locally, others are coastal, while there are also long-range vessels that fish in the deep seas. As of 2004, the local fishing vessels accounted for a massive 87% of the entire fishing fleet. Of the total weight of fish caught in Portugal, the local fleet accounts for about 8% of the gross registered tonnage (GRT). These smaller vessels employ methods such as hooks, nets, traps, and other simple methods of fishing.
Naturally, the smaller sizes of these boats and the relatively simpler fishing methods do not amount to a lot of output but they are still a source of livelihood for a lot of people. These small boats catch fish species of high commercial value including hake, black scabbardfish, pouting, octopus, anglerfish, and other species. Aside from these species, the extremely effective purse seine fishing method catches a high number of sardines.
The coastal fishing fleet accounts for the remaining 13% of the sea vessels. However, despite the smaller number, the larger sizes of individual vessels and advanced fishing techniques means that these vessels have a higher GRT (93%) compared to the smaller vessels. The vessels are equipped to operate in seas away from the coast and have the ability to venture beyond the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The fishing methods employed by these larger vessels include purse seine, trawling, and polyvalent techniques. Trawlers target fish species on the mainland shelf such as blue whiting, crustaceans, horse mackerel, and octopus. The crustaceans targeted include the likes of red shrimp, deepwater rose shrimp, and Norway lobster.
Overall, the data from 2004 shows that sardines accounted for the highest percentage (37%) of the total landings by weight. Other high contributors by weight include mackerel (9%) and horse mackerel (8%). Molluscs accounted for the highest contribution (22%) of the total landings by value with sardines accounting for 13%.
Approximately two-fifths of Portugal is covered with forests, especially in the mountainous regions. With Portugal being one of the top producers of products that come from trees, there have been intense and rigorous reforestation efforts that have been going on since the later stages of the 19th century. These forests, which are mostly owned by private individuals, are situated in places that do not produce a significant crop for human consumption and places where erosion has been harsh.
Currently, there are several global paper and cork industries contribute to the expanding economy of Portugal. Such kinds of industries are located in places like Maia, Setúbal, and Figueira da Foz. One of the most significant exports that Portugal has come to rely on from its forests is cork. In fact, Portugal is among the top producers of cork in the world.
Some of the forests in Portugal include the Buçaco Forest, Choupal National Forest, and others. For example, the Buçaco Forest is home to more than 250 tree and shrub species. Some of the tree species include the abundant Mexican cypress (also known as Cedar of Goa or the Bucaco Cedar), oak, maritime pines, and many more. The Choupal National Forest is famed for its poplar trees, beeches, eucalyptus, sycamores, and many more tree species.
For the most part, Portugal’s farmers practice small to medium-scale farming. However, there are large-scale units of farming, especially those that are more focused on exporting their produce. Because of the climate and the topography of the nation, a huge variety of crops can be cultivated. These crops include olives, citrus, figs, bananas, cereals, pineapple, and other crops. Some of the more competitive products of agriculture include wine, tomatoes, table grapes, beef, leaf vegetables, olives, and a few others. The global and national demand for Portuguese products has been improving steadily since the 1990s because of better practices in marketing.
The importance of agriculture to the economy cannot be ignored. In 2013, the sector contributed about 2.3% of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of Portugal. However, the levels of agricultural produce in Portugal are still below the average levels laid out by the European Union. The sector has not developed to its full potential because of low investment, fragmented land-tenure methods, and low levels of technology.
The nation has made massive strides in harnessing the wind and water resources in producing renewable energy. In fact, Portugal is among the global leaders in the production of renewable energy. In 2010, 52% of the total energy was accounted for by renewable sources while 2013 saw the figure rise to 61.7%. Hydroelectric and wind power accounted for 30.4% and 24.1% respectively of the total renewable energy produced in 2013. In 2016, the entire nation’s energy needs were handled by renewable energy sources for four consecutive days.
Mining is also another sector that relies on natural resources. Mining is an activity that has been going on since the pre-Roman times when the area was known as Lusitania. At some point, Portugal mined gold. Currently, however, the nation leads in the mining of copper, tin, uranium, and tungsten.