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Jalpaiguri engineer set to turn Bengal into freshwater pearl culture hub

12 April, 2021 14:48:10
Jalpaiguri engineer set to turn Bengal into freshwater pearl culture hub

“All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography,” said renowned Italian film director and screenwriter, Federico Fellini. 

Pearls have inspired people for ages with their timeless appeal. These treasures from the sea have also invited some unusual and profound comments from people who have been captivated by their rarity and beauty. Pearls can be found, or cultivated, in freshwater or saltwater and there are several different types of pearls depending on what mollusk they originate from.

Pearl farming can be done successfully only after fulfilling a number of factors. A pH in the range of 7 to 8 is favourable because pearl mussels require more calcium for the secretion of nacre. Water temperature is also an important factor in the mussels’ growth and reproduction, and the process of pearl formation in mussels’ body cavities requires a temperature in the range of 25-30°C.

Now an engineer turned pearl harvester from Bengal is scripting an amazing tale. Alinjar Guha hails from Jalpaiguri district. He is a resident of Sonar Bari in Belakoba Shikarpur village Panchayat under Rajganj Block. Although an engineer by profession, he has always been enthusiastic about setting up independent business. He wanted to try out something new when he hit upon the idea of freshwater pearl culture which could be made into a profitable business and provide livelihood to several locals.

Pearl farming can be done successfully only after fulfilling a number of factors. A pH in the range of 7 to 8 is favourable because pearl mussels require more calcium for the secretion of nacre. Water temperature is also an important factor in the mussels’ growth and reproduction, and the process of pearl formation in mussels’ body cavities requires a temperature in the range of 25-30°C. A farmer has to know the biology and food requirements of the mussels. Careful pond management is needed, particularly in terms of natural food production, and the water must be disease free. The management of water quality, through liming or fertilisation, is particularly important during the culture period, as it affects the quality and quantity of the pearls. There should also be algal culture facilities in the mussel farm. The hanging bags which contain the implanted mussels should be cleaned fortnightly and any dead mussels should be immediately removed.

Guha visited several freshwater pearl farms in villages in Haryana and Punjab where pearl culture is a booming business. Enthused by the boom, Guha now wants to encourage other farmers to get into this new business venture. He is even willing to share his knowledge and offer consultation to those interested in setting up pearl farming.

 

Guha began commercial pearl farming in a pond measuring 120/90 ft located on one bigha plot. He made surgical insertions himself and on an average, he completed 1,000 to 1,500 surgeries a day. He has invested around Rs 11 lakh in this project and hopes that 50 to 55 per cent of the total oysters will produce pearls, which will fetch him anything between Rs 20 lakh as profit from the market.   

In order to update himself and learn skills of pearl farming, Guha visited several freshwater pearl farms in villages in Haryana and Punjab where pearl culture is a booming business. Enthused by the boom, Guha now wants to encourage other farmers to get into this new business venture. He is even willing to share his knowledge and offer consultation to those interested in setting up pearl farming. He is even willing to do the surgical implants for them since it requires technical expertise. 

Pearl culture is a lucrative business. The global trade of pearls which is well over US$5 billion annually is controlled by a few countries. Freshwater pearl culture is growing as a source of employment and income in many south-east Asian countries, including India. Guha is all set to explore the possibilities in this untapped market and hopes to inspire others to join in this farming and confirm a berth for West Bengal in the world map as a producer of high-yielding, high quality freshwater pearls.

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