Pearl farming in Phuket
published : 10 Oct 2011 at 15:29
writer: Jon Fernquest
Take a guided tour through pearl farming and the history of Phuket's most successful pearl farm.
IN PERSON: Pearl business casts a shine over Phuket by Achadtaya Chuenniran
Island's largest and oldest jewellery maker has a third generation of the family in charge and helps draw ever more tourists to the Pearl of the Andaman, while offering steady jobs.
At first glance, businessman Jitti Intorncharoen, in simple shirt and jeans, cuts a salt-of-the-earth type figure.
But actually, he is the managing director of the Phuket Pearl Factory group, the biggest producer of pearl jewellery in the province.
The company is the country's first pearl producer with a fully integrated process. It runs two pearl farms and a factory for sorting out pearls and producing and designing pearl jewellery.
The company plays a part in pulling in tourist money for Phuket and serves as a learning centre for those interested in seeking knowledge about the production of pearls.
Mr Jitti's educational background is in forestry science although he has made a living away from the forests and dry land.
He said the enterprise began in 1967 as a family business run by his grandfather.
Initially, his grandfather farmed cockles and then turned to raising pearl oysters for distribution to pearl producers before his parents took over the business.
A pearl is cultured inside the shell of an oyster.A perfectly round pearl can fetch a very high price.
In 1991, the Tourism Authority of Thailand kicked off a campaign to promote tourism in Phuket. The private sector agreed to join the drive, resulting in a boom in tourism and development.
That was when the third generation of the family via Mr Jitti and his brothers and sisters, stepped in and picked up the torch and streamlined the pearl production process.
In 1993, the company successfully cultured and harvested its first perfectly round pearl - the rarest shape for a cultured pearl - after working with several universities to carry out research on pearl cultivation.
A year later, the company changed from a family business to a manufacturer with a fully integrated production process, ranging from breeding and farming pearl oysters, to producing and designing pearl jewellery and setting up shops to sell the products.
A foreign tourist examines pearl jewellery sold at one of the company’s outlets in Phuket.
In 2003, the company succeeded in producing a Rather Round Pearl and applied for a patent for its method to produce the pearl. The RRP is a cross between the distinctive South Sea Pearl and the Mabe Pearl, and it has a gold-rainbow colour.
In 2004, the company received several awards in recognition of its business management but it is its product innovation and craftsmanship that have made the pearl industry in Phuket shine.
"It shows that the skills of Thai people are second to none," Mr Jitti said.
Everyone recognises the quality and standards of pearl products in Thailand. Thai pearls can compete with pearls from any country.
Mr Jitti, 39, graduated from Kasetsart University's forestry faculty and then pursued a master's degree in public administration from the National Institute of Development Administration.
Pearl jewellery from the company has achieved much fame as it is worn by contestants in beauty pageants.
He began work as an employee at a black tiger prawn farm. His job was to control the quality of water and feed for raising the prawns.
He later quit and tried his hand breeding cockles on a coastal farm before returning to help the family business.
His career took an unexpected twist as he was a graduate trained in agriculture but eventually became a businessman running a pearl jewellery business alongside his elder brother who has direct experience in the jewellery area.
It took time for him to learn the ropes, Mr Jitti said.
He said the company had tried to enter its pearl jewellery into competitions as part of its brand-building strategy to reach out to a broader range of customers.
Mr Jitti said the company has two pearl oyster farms - the biggest in Phuket and in the Andaman Sea - at Koh Maphrao, off Phuket.
The quality of sea water at the island is suited for farming pearl oysters and the environment is largely intact. Each farm has 500 krachang (floating baskets) for raising the oysters.
The farms can breed 100,000 oysters annually with an output of about 50,000 to 60,000 pieces of pearl jewellery made each year. More farms are also planned in nearby areas, he said.
Mr Jitti said competition among pearl suppliers is now fierce, with freshwater farmed pearls coming in from abroad. The quality of freshwater pearls is being improved and brought up to a par with that of saltwater pearls.
He said saltwater pearls have a thicker surface and shine with more lustre than freshwater pearls.
However some emerging entrepreneurs have imported cheap freshwater pearls and passed them off as saltwater ones, Mr Jitti warned.
He also provided a rule of thumb on how to differentiate genuine pearls from fake pearls.
"Take a pearl and rub it against your teeth. If it feels rough, it is a genuine pearl. If it feels smooth, it is an artificial pearl with a heavy coating. In some cases, a pearl must be incised to check if it is real or plastic," Mr Jitti said.
In running the company, Mr Jitti said customer service is key and honesty is always the best policy.
Pearls look almost the same to a layman's eyes. It is easy to cheat the unsuspecting.
"It is important to provide customers with correct information," he said.
Customers are taken to the farms and the factory to see for themselves how the pearl products are made through all the stages.
Each year, several state agencies, both domestic and overseas private firms, and foreign embassies visit the company and study the way it runs its business. Local and foreign media always ask to come in and cover the story of the pearl farms.
Apart from making profits and pulling in money from tourists, Mr Jitti said the company and those in the aquaculture businesses generate jobs with secure incomes for local residents.
As Phuket is a world-renowned resort island drawing both Thai and foreign travellers each year, the company must apply various pricing strategies to ensure its products are affordable to all customers. "People look for beauty and happiness. The pearl business must respond to the needs of each customer," Mr Jitti said.
(Source: Bangkok Post, IN PERSON, Pearl business casts a shine over Phuket, 8/10/2011, Achadtaya Chuenniran, link)
Pearl Jewelry Industry Vocabulary
pearl - "the ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes of pearls (baroque pearls) occur. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries, and because of this, the word pearl has become a metaphor for something very rare, fine, admirable, and valuable. The most valuable pearls occur spontaneously in the wild, but they are extremely rare. These wild pearls are referred to as natural pearls. Cultured or farmed pearls from pearl oysters and freshwater mussels make up the majority of those that are currently sold. Imitation or fake pearls are also widely sold in inexpensive jewelry, but the quality of their iridescence is usually very poor, and generally speaking, artificial pearls are easily distinguished from genuine pearls" (See Wikipedia)
cultured pearl - a pearl created in a pearl farm under controlled conditions; "more than 99% of all pearls sold worldwide are cultured pearls" (See Wikipedia)
culture a pearl
a pearl is cultured inside the shell of an oyster
pearl cultivation - pearl farming; the process of culturing pearls
aquaculture - the farming of shell fish and plants underwater includes: fish farming, shrimp farming, oyster farming, raising cultured pearls, kelp, seaweed, and algae (See Wikipedia)
perfectly round pearl - "perfectly round pearls are the rarest and most valuable shape" in jewellry (See Wikipedia)
Rather Round Pearl (RRP) - "In 2003, the company succeeded in producing a Rather Round Pearl and applied for a patent for its method to produce the pearl. The RRP is a cross between the distinctive South Sea Pearl and the Mabe Pearl, and it has a gold-rainbow colour" (See website)
patent - legal rights to use an invention and to prevent the invention from being used by others, details of invention must be revealed to government patent office (See Wikipedia)
sorting out pearls - the process of selecting out the best pearls; sorting them into different levels of quality or grades
distribution - giving or delivering things to many people การจำหน่ายออกไป
pearl oysters for distribution to pearl producers
jewellery - nice looking things that people wear to add to their beauty such as necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets and brooches (See Wikipedia)
pearl jewellery - pearls have been popular especially in pearl necklaces for hundreds of years (See Wikipedia)
producer - a company that makes or "produces" some good in their factory ผู้ผลิต
cockles - shellfish (clams) that live in saltwater and are used as food (See Wikipedia)
breeding (noun) - the activity of keeping of animals or plants in order to produce young animals from them การผสมพันธุ์สัตว์เพื่อขยายพันธุ์ เพาะเลี้ยง
breed (verb) - to create more animals; raise animals for the purpose of producing more animals
coast - an area of land beside the sea ชายฝั่ง
breeding cockles on a coastal farm
annually - happening every year ทุกๆปีด
The farms can breed 100,000 oysters annually
fierce - very intense and very aggressive
competition among pearl suppliers is now fierce
freshwater - water without salt (as in inland rivers or lakes)
saltwater - in the sea or ocean (which have salt)
saltwater pearls - the original way that pearls have been farmed; the pearls are different from freshwater pearls (See Wikipedia)
freshwater farmed pearls - (See Wikipedia and also here)
lustre - 1. a gentle shining light reflected from a surface such as metal; 2. qualities that make something interesting and exciting
shine with more lustre
casts a shine - when the light passes out and over something (such as the light of the sun over the sea)
rough - not smooth มีคลื่นมาก
differentiate X from Y - know how X is different from Y (can see the difference)
genuine - real; honest; sincere
fake - made to look like something real in order to trick people ที่ทำปลอม; ปลอมแปลง
differentiate genuine pearls from fake pearls.
artificial - not natural, made by humans จำลอง ที่มนุษย์สร้างขึ้น ที่ประดิษฐ์ขึ้น
artificial pearl - pearl made by humans; not occuring naturally without humans
coating - some material (such as paint) put on the outside surface of an object
artificial pearl with a heavy coating
incise - to cut into the surface of an object
incised to check if it is real or plastic
layman - a person without some special skills (here: does not know a lot about pearls, not a pearl expert)
Pearls look almost the same to a layman's eyes - meaning: bad pearls look the same as good pearls to the unskilled or non-expert
Pearl of the Andaman - another name for Phuket
draw ever more tourists to the Pearl of the Andaman
streamline - make a process or whole organization more efficient by removing whole parts of it
streamlined the pearl production process
generation - a group of people in society who are born and live around the same time รุ่น (คนรุ่นต่างๆ)
third generation of the family - 1st generation are the grandparents; 2nd generation are the parents
in charge - managing some activity
steady - continuous without stopping
steady job - a job that a person has for a long time, for their whole life, if they are lucky (not just a temporary job)
At first glance, ... - what it appears to be when you first look at it (without investigating it carefully)
simple - easy to understand; not complicated ง่าย,ไม่ยุ่งยาก, ไม่ซับซ้อน
simple shirt and jeans - easy casual clothes to wear
salt-of-the-earth - people who have a simple appearance and manner; do not show off (even if they have a lot of money and could show off if they wanted to); humble and unpretentious (See Wikipedia)
cuts a salt-of-the-earth type figure - has a "salt-of-the-earth" appearance
integrated - combining things of different types in one effective system ที่รวมเข้าด้วยกัน
process - a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
fully integrated process - when all the steps of a production process for a good (and here marketing too) are combined (as in vertical integration and horizontal integration)
X plays a part in Y - X does part of the work of Y along with other people and businesses
the company plays a part in pulling in tourist money for Phuket
background - personal history and experience
educational background - the schools a person has gone to and the degrees they have received
forestry science - the science of raising trees (See Wikipedia)
faculty - a group of departments in a college which specialize in a particular subject or group of subjects คณะ
Kasetsart University's forestry faculty
public administration - management of government agencies and activities
make a living - doing some type of work to earn money to support yourself and your family
enterprise - an organization, especially a business กิจการ, บริษัท,อุตสาหกิจ,วิสาหกิจ
fetch - to be sold for a particular amount of money ขายในราคาหนึ่ง
fetch a very high price - people pay a lot of money for it
campaign - a planned group of especially political, business or military activities which are intended to achieve a particular aim การรณรงค์
kick off a campaign - begin a campaign
kicked off a campaign to promote tourism in Phuket
private sector - all the privately owned businesses and companies in a country and economy
drive - a planned effort to achieve something การผลักดัน,ความพยายาม
join the drive - when people or businesses join in a planned effort to achieve something
development - the gradual growth and formation of something
a boom in tourism and development a time when many tourists are coming to a place and it is growing and improving rapidly
torch - a piece of wood or a long container with a flame at one end คบเพลิง
stepped in and picked up the torch - joined and started doing things (assuming responsibilities)
outlets - stores selling a product, retail outlets ร้านค้า
distinctive - easy to notice and recognize as different; something that is distinctive is easy to recognize because it is different from other things พิเศษ, มีลักษณะเฉพาะ
recognition - be known for something (here known for "being a logistics hub")
awards in recognition of its business management
innovation - a new way of doing something นวัตกรรม
product innovation - creating new products (different from what companies produced in the past)
craftsmanship - skill at making things ฝีมือ
skills - a type of work or task requiring special training and knowledge ทักษะ ความสามารถเฉพาะทาง
standards - an acceptable level of quality or achievement มาตรฐาน
Everyone recognises the quality and standards of pearl products in Thailand
beauty pageant - a contest to select the most beautiful and skilled woman among the contestants (See Wikipedia)
contest - when many people try hard to win a prize given to the best (example: a singing contest)
competition - same as "contest"
contestants - all the people competing in the contest
worn by contestants in beauty pageants
enter its pearl jewellery into competitions
employee - someone who is paid regularly to work for a person or an organisation ลูกจ้าง
feed - food for animals
career - the job or long series of related jobs that you do and plan to do during your life (See Wikipedia) (See glossary)
unexpected twist - when something surprising happens (that you were not expecting)
his career took an unexpected twist - a surprising event happened in his career
eventually - at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process ในที่สุด
eventually became a businessman - after a period of time, he became a businessman (didn't start work as a businessman)
elder - older ที่แก่กว่า
elder brother - older brother
learn the ropes - learn how to do a certain business (practical learning, on the job, not just books)
brand - a type of product made by a particular company ตรา, ยี่ห้อ
strategy - a plan to achieve a goal over a longer period of time (longer than a "tactic")
brand-building strategy - a strategy to make people know about and respect the brand of their product
range - a number of different things that are of the same general type ขอบข่าย, ประเภท
reach out to a broader range of customers - find new groups of people interested in buying their product (new market segments)
environment - the natural world of land, sea, plants, and animals
intact - not harmed, damaged, or lacking any parts as a results of something that has happened สมบูรณ์ ไม่บุบสลาย
the environment is largely intact - the sea and its environment (fish, water, etc) has not been polluted and destroyed
par - equality, equal with
entrepreneurs - business people เจ้าของกิจการ
emerging entrepreneurs - business people who are just starting out (with new business ideas)
pass X off as Y - lie to people and make them believe that bad thing X is good thing Y
imported cheap freshwater pearls and passed them off as saltwater ones
rule of thumb - a short easy-to-remember rule (that can be used in practical everyday situations)
customer service - helping customers satisfy their needs
key - important สำคัญ (the most important thing that is essential or needed)
customer service is key - customer service is the most important thing
honesty - ความซื่อสัตย์
policy - a plan of action to guide decisions and achieveoutcomes (See Wikipedia) นโยบาย
honesty is always the best policy
cheat - gain or get something from someone by lieing and being dishonest to them
suspect (verb) - believe that something bad could happen (so watching carefully)
the unsuspecting - people who do not suspect (something bad is happening)
easy to cheat the unsuspecting - easy to lie and get things from people who are not expecting lies
see for themselves - don't just accept what other people tell you (see for yourself with your own eyes)
media - radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, considered as a group สื่อ
generate - create สร้าง กระตุ้นให้เิกิด
secure - safe from attack or harm ปลอดภัย
local - in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about ท้องถิ่น
residents - people who live in a particular place or area ราษฎรในบริเวณนั้น ชาวบ้านในบริเวณ ผู้อาศัยในบริเวณ
generate jobs with secure incomes for local residents
renowned - famous and admired for a special skill or achievement ที่มีชื่อเสียง
world-renowned resort island - resort island known by people around the world; famous around the world
apply - to make use of something นำมาใช้
strategies - long-term plans for success in competition กลยุทธ
ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน
affordable - does not cost too much, so you are able to buy ไม่แพง
apply various pricing strategies to ensure its products are affordable to all customers
respond - to say or do something as a reaction to something that has been said or done ตอบสนอง, ตอบรับ
must respond to the needs of each customer