25 Jul 2011

Extra NZ funding for Cooks' pearl industry "fantastic first step"

6:37 am on 25 July 2011

Pearl farmers in the Cook Islands are welcoming extra funding of two-and-a-half million US dollars from New Zealand's aid programme.

The money will double the number of black pearl-producing oysters in the northern Cook Islands' Manihiki lagoon to 1.2 million and enable the remapping of the pearl farms for the first time in more than five years.

The Cook Islands Pearl Authority's chief executive says the value of exports peaked a decade ago at more than 15 million US dollars but the combination of a cyclone followed by a devastating outbreak of disease plunged the industry into decline.

George Ellis says the money's a good start to helping it recover.

"If you ask a farmer a question like that of course he will always say, well look, we want more. No, I think this is a fantastic first step and first stage for our recovery programme and what it would allow us to set up a credit scheme tailor-made to the requirements of the farmers in the northern group of the Cook Islands so that they can then have access to borrow to start expanding their production base."