Govind D. Belgaumkar
It is a commercially viable venture, says Mathachan
MANGALORE: Pearl, one of the nine gemstones (Navaratnas), can be cultivated in the State on a large scale, according to Mathachan K.J., expert pearl cultivator from Kerala, who is here to train 20 people in this art.
Mr. Mathachan told The Hindu on the sidelines of the training programme at the College of Fisheries that mussels or shells required for pearl cultivation were available in abundance in many water bodies of the State. Recently, he collected 1,000 mussels from the Harangi dam in Kodagu and some more from Sakleshpur. “You should look for them during summer,” he said.
He said: “A round foreign body, sand or small stone, should be injected into the live mussel. In order to protect itself from the foreign body, the mussel secrets calcium carbonate and covers it fully layer by layer. This later transforms into a pearl.”
“Pearl is a precious creation and a blessing of nature,” Mr. Mathachan said. The shape of the pearl would depend on the shape of the foreign body and its position inside the mussel. The colour would depend on the type of mussel.
The commonly available species — Lamellidens Marginalis, L. Corrianus and Parresia Corrugata — would yield silver grey, pink and white pearls, he said.
Mr. Mathachan said that he got three yields since 1999 when he started pearl culture after getting training in the Bhubaneshwar-based Central Institute of Fresh Water Aqua Culture (CIFA).
He has a farm at Kadutholi near Kanhangad in Kasargod district of Kerala.
In the last harvest, he got 554 pearls, each worth about Rs. 1,000. He said that it was a commercially viable venture.
He said that the infrastructure needed was a three-metre deep pond covered by geo membrane, nylon or tarpaulin and a small laboratory. The pond should be free of other creatures.
Micro organisms and algae could be used as food with fertilizers added for the growth of algae, he said.
“You could introduce foreign body during September or October when shells are 8 cm or more in size. Pearls will be ready in 12 to 18 months, depending on the food given,” he added.
Pointing out that traditionally Indians believed that rainwater trapped inside shells got condensed into pearls, he said that a precious pearl, “La Perry Graina”, was given as a wedding gift to Mary Dudark, daughter of King Henry VIII in 16th Century. It was obtained from the Panama Sea.
He said Kokkichi Mikki of Japan and his colleagues made pearl by injecting foreign body into the shell in 1890, but kept it a secret for long. China produced 95 per cent of the world’s pearls, about 100 tonnes. Pearls worth $ 2 billion reached the international market and India too imported them, mostly from Bahrain, China and Japan.
Mr. Mathachan said that pearl enthusiasts could tap the increased purchasing power of Indians even as gold merchants had begun to market pearls.
“The demand is sure to increase,” he added.
The CIFA and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) could play a big role in tapping the market.