HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 577: 17 August 2011

China a concern for our black pearl industry
The man heading the Cook Islands Pearl Authority-CIPA-George Ellis says our back pearl producers have good reason to be concerned at the progress being made by China with production of their black pearls.
In the last few years the Chinese have made very significant scientific breakthroughs Ellis told the Herald on Tuesday morning. The Chinese have been investing a lot in improving oyster stock said Ellis.
There are two main worries from our position.
Firstly, the Chinese can now farm round cultured pearls whereas previously the percentage of round pearls was very small.
Secondly, the Chinese are using seeding techniques which can shorten the growth period so they are harvesting their pearls in half the time we take.
It was only a matter of time before the Chinese entered the black pearl market in a significant way.
China has a 5,000 year heritage of producing pearls. China is the biggest producer of pearls, producing over 95 percent of fresh water pearls. However, because of oversupply, their value says Ellis, is very low.
Salt water pearl production is only 38 tonnes world- wide said Ellis but the value per pearl is greater than the total Chinese fresh water production.
Despite the advances being made by the Chinese, Ellis says it’s not the end of the world.
Our marketing strategy says Ellis is to counter over-production by Tahiti and China. The Cook Islands is developing niche markets, promoting our premium pearls as the best and most rare which can be used by the world’s top jewelry factories.
When asked if CIPA intended to appoint a marketing specialist, Ellis said CIPA doesn’t necessarily have to appoint anyone in marketing as CIPA is utilizing wholesalers to develop the market for the Cook Ilsands.
Besides, there is a limit to what CIPA can do with its marketing budget of $200,000 per year ($100,000 from our government and $100,000 from NZAID for the next 3 years).
CIPA, said Ellis, is restricted in building networks by the size of its marketing budget. By comparison said Ellis, Tahiti spent millions each year on marketing. They can afford full page adverts in colour in the world’s leading magazines whereas such would swallow up our entire marketing budget and more.
The Herald posed the question how do we get our premium pearls into high end consumer areas like Rodeo Drive in LA, Tiffany’s in NY, Paris, Rome, and London. Ellis said this would come in time, possibly years but through networks fostered by wholesalers.
Ellis said the network was being started in New Zealand and in the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Belgium. Setting up networks would be next carried in the Scandinavian countries. There was a visit to China two months ago where interest was shown so the focus there will be on the emerging wealth in that country.
Ellis said overseas buyers were interested in the brand. Only the premium black pearls will carry the Avaiki brand name however, CIPA would continue to market other pearls not under the brand.
Ellis said our thrust must be on top quality, unique pearls with their unique history and properties.
We cannot compete with Tahiti in volume. Tahiti produces 97 percent of the world’s black pearls with Fiji and the Cook Islands sharing the remaining 3 percent.

-Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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