For many of us, pearl farming is a practice unheard of in Nepal. But it happens to be one of the thriving aquaculture businesses in neighboring India.
Kamala Rai of Sundar Haraicha, Morang, also had zero knowledge of it until she came across a YouTube video on freshwater pearl farming in India. Her interest was instantly piqued. She then went on to watch several instructional videos on pearl farming and realized that she could start her own business.
“For most of us, the term pearl farming conjures up images of big bodies of water like seas and oceans. I thought the same until a few years ago,” says Rai. “But, in reality, it can be done in a small pond with a small investment and a bit of knowledge.”
She founded Shree Mahakali Pearl Farm and Training Center in 2018, in what is still Nepal’s first and only commercial pearl farm.
“At our farm, we use freshwater mussels to grow cultured pearls,” says Rai. “Once the pearls are extracted, the mussel shells can be used to make jewelry, handicraft items and fish feed.”
Mussel pearl farming is a unique business with a lot of potential. As one of the most popular gems, pearls have a high demand in the country. Nepal imported pearls and other precious stones and metals worth $376.24 million in 2019, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.
Rai says most folks doubted her when she started the business.
“I was doing what had never been done before. So, naturally, people were doubtful. But these days, they are more curious,” she says.
Rai also wants others to enter the business. To this end, her farm offers a three-month training that promises knowledge on all aspects of freshwater pearl farming, including surgery, preoperative and postoperative mussel care.
As a self-taught pearl farmer, Rai had to undertake many trials. She says she opened the training center so that aspiring pearl farmers have a basic foundation before starting their own farms.
Currently, the Shree Mahakali Pearl Farm only sells individual pearls, whose price range from Rs 300 to Rs 600 apiece depending on their size, quality, and shine.
“We will soon start selling our pearls in jewelry form as well,” says Rai.
Shree Mahakali Pearl Farm and Training Center
Establishment year: 2018
Founder: Kamala Rai
Service location: Sundar Haraicha, Morang
Price of the product: Rs 300 to Rs 600 (depending on the size, quality, and shine of the pearls)
Social media link: https://www.facebook.com/273093550209357/posts/shree-mahakali-new-business-pearl-farming-in-nepal/591747631677279/