MOP handicraft and jewellery training helps Fiji compete with imports
Thursday, 13 March 2014 09:14

ACIAR/PARDI-funded mother of pearl (MOP) handicraft training is reaching new heights in Fiji where village people are making and selling jewellery and handicrafts thanks to their new-found skills.

MOP is the shiny silver-white material that lines the inner shell surfaces of pearl oysters and some other molluscs. It is the same material that forms cultured pearls hence the term ‘mother’ of pearl.

Like pearls, MOP has the ability to be crafted into valuable jewellery items. Many Fijian villages have access to reasonable quantities of pearl shells and MOP that occur naturally and as a result of increasing supplies of pearl oysters shells available through the ACIAR/PARDI spat collection program.

In recent years, the South Pacific tourist trade in MOP handicraft and jewellery items has been dominated by imported items from South East Asia.  As part of the PARDI Fisheries Pearl Project, scientists aim to turn this trend around. Through training, the scientists are enabling Fiji (and Tonga) to develop their own industries and improve their livelihoods through import replacement.

According to PARDI Fisheries Component Leader, Prof Paul Southgate of James Cook University, PARDI research in Fiji has highlighted strong demand from tourists for items with a Fijian origin and style. “Locally-made MOP items (such as jewellery and handicrafts) are sought after by tourists, and this sector of the industry has an estimated annual value of more than F$10 million,” said Prof Southgate.

“This level of buyer interest is an important consideration in our handicraft training. The PARDI MOP handicraft training program employs local trainers and involves collaboration with the Fiji Arts Council and major retail outlets to help create unique local products.”

A Fiji Times news story covered the expanding MOP handicraft business in Ba, Viti Levu earlier this month where women from the Ba Women’s Forum (BWF) participated in a PARDI MOP handicraft training program - see The Fiji Times newspaper article on the mother of pearl project: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=261720 .

The trainees from the Ba group will formally graduate in mid-March. Their graduation will be held prior to the second phase of the MOP training project which will produce commercial quantities of high-demand MOP handicraft items. These will be used to support marketing research within the Fijian handicraft sector.

While MOP handicraft training to date has been held in Ba, broad interest among other villages and increasing availability of MOP in the region means there is considerable potential for similar training to be conducted throughout Fiji. 

“Further training, similar to that in Ba, is very feasible given that the PARDI Fisheries spat (baby oyster) collection program is increasing the availability of pearl oyster shells,” said Prof Southgate.

“For the first time in Fiji’s history, the area is developing a structured and effective spat collection program and more oysters are becoming available to pearl farmers and communities throughout Fiji. This is supporting a growth in MOP handicraft production.”

CONTACTS
PARDI Project Leaders
Paul Southgate, James Cook University, M 0477 849 446
Theo Simos, University of Adelaide, M 0417 816 160
PARDI Communications
 Julie Lloyd, M 0415 799 890