Exactly nine months ago we had just taken a battering from Cyclone Winston and were picking up the pieces of our (apparently) mobile home and the wreckage of the implant shed at the Taveuni pearl farm. In Winstons' wake we counted our losses, cancelled the April harvest, and let the remaining oyster stock lie, with the belief that extra time in the water would lead to better results for the October harvest.
Counting the Cost
Farmers on the land were similarly counting there own lost crops and lost opportunities of income. Our local market stalls, usually vibrant with the colors of fresh fruit and vegetables were either empty or severely depleted of produce for many months. A whole season of time, effort and income had gone with the wind. Fortunately, nature is as resilient as it is destructive.
Within a few weeks a spurt of new growth cloaked the island in fresh shades of green, and within a few months the landscape showed few signs of the damage previously inflicted. For many villages on the island, however, the path to recovery has been longer, slower, and in many cases still very much ongoing.
With the huge amount of clean up, repairs, and rebuilding, plus multiple ongoing projects, the time has flown by and yet that day in February now seems rather distant. The disappointment of the delayed April harvest has been countered by anticipation and excitement in the lead up to the October haul.
On the opening day we raised the first oysters from the lines with fingers crossed.
Counting the Harvest
One by one we went through a well-drilled process - open, harvest, clean, implant, and return to the lines along with freshly seeded juveniles. Within the first day it was clear that April delay and extra time was worth the wait.
Over the next 3 weeks we raised 4,500 oysters from the lines, and the results were extraordinary: a 68% rate of return - over 3,000 marketable pearls !!
Not only pearls in great numbers, but pearls with fantastic color and incredible luster.
The October 2016 harvest is - by some margin - our best harvest since we began operations.
We can only guess, but Winston may have blown some good fortune our way in the end by stirring up the mix in the lagoon to generate a healthy spurt of growth similar to that seen landside.
"Always great to harvest.... but then it comes with a bit more work and headaches afterward; grading and deciding what stays and what goes to export. I love these problems!" - Claude Prevost
Around half of the crop has been set aside for the export market with the rest retained for local sales of loose pearls, jewelry and other accessories at the Boutique in Matei. Given the popularity of our sneak-peek pictures on our Facebook page we are looking forward to some very good sales !
With similar results for our planned harvests during 2017 we will offset the cyclone losses and recovery costs incurred this year, and with new juvenile stock kicking in we expect the pearl farming aspect of the business to return to growth again in 2018.
So, with our pearl baskets bursting at the seams with color we move towards the end of the year as very happy farmers. Our market ladies are looking much happier too - their stalls are also awash with color once again !
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