Tonga pearl industry shines in light of new-found success
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 14:48


New developments in pearl farming and production and the retail of half-pearls (mabé), mother-of-pearl (MOP) shell jewellery and wooden handicrafts point towards a significant increase in outputs and potential industry prosperity as a result of innovative research.

Associate Professor Anand Chand recently visited Tongatapu and Va’vau as part of a Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (*PARDI) activity to investigate developments in Tongan pearl farming and production.

According to Assoc. Prof. Chand, data collected during the visit was compared to research carried out by the pearl project team at the start of the PARDI pearl project in January 2011. 

“And our data showed that over the last 16 months, PARDI interventions (e.g. increased hatchery capacity, increased availability of equipment and material to farmers, training workshops and associated extension materials) have stimulated an array of very positive changes to the pearl industry and enabled the industry to benchmark their products,” he said.

“Of note is considerable capacity building across the farming and production sectors with clear signs that this is leading to the evolution of quality, sought-after products.”

Anand was accompanied during his trip by another member of the PARDI pearl project team, Tevita Taumaipeau, who met with stakeholders to begin work on a draft development plan for the Tongan pearl industry.

The newly-emerging Tonga pearl industry – some recent benchmarks

  • Larger number of people now engaged in pearl farming due to increased availability of hatchery-produced oysters.
  • Development and strengthening of the Tonga Pearl Farmers Association. 
  • Improved skills (capacity) in half-pearl (mabé) seeding techniques and improved pearl quality. 
  • Increased production of mabé and increased sales of mabé in the Vava’u Market and jewellery stores in Nuku’alofa.
  • Increased production and retail of MOP shell jewellery in the Vava’u and Nuku’alofa Markets.
  • Demand for Tongan mabé and MOP shell jewellery highlighted in Fiji with room for development of export market in Fiji. Fiji can substitute this against imports coming from China.

Background and contact details

* PARDI Scientists undertake supply-chain and market-driven research to identify constraints that impede local economic development. Research is aimed at achieving tangible solutions, such as new skills for locals, new technologies and product options. PARDI research incorporates over 20 research projects.


For more information:
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Julie Lloyd
PARDI Communications
M: 0415 799 890