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AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (October 18 2001 – Cook Islands News)---Stakeholders in the black pearl industry have rejected the idea of taxing what they export, which would help finance an international marketing and promotions program for Cook Islands black pearls.

The general consensus is that government should be injecting more than the NZ$ 100,000 (US$ 41,280) set aside for the program as the black pearl industry is the third largest in the country.

At the first series of meetings with industry people run by the Development Investment Board/Small Business Enterprise Centre Task Force this week, most participants felt taxing exported black pearls would disadvantage sellers here and create price increases that would make the Cook Islands product less competitive with that of Tahiti.

Tahiti imposes a tax of US$ 2.00 per gram of exported black pearls and an average pearl weighs two grams. It’s understood the tax helps pay for Tahiti’s multi-million dollar marketing program.

However, some government officials believe the Cook Islands’ black pearl industry should make some contribution towards its marketing program as substantial concessions are already in place for stakeholders.

Members and non-members of the Pearl Guild, pearl brokers and graders in Rarotonga believe the task force needs to address issues affecting production and get farmers fully involved before embarking on branding and marketing.

Bank of the Cook Islands securities manager Terai McFadzien cautioned that improvements have to be made to production and quality before branding and marketing is looked at.

However, she added that it is vital that branding of Cook Islands black pearls be done to establish an international presence.

A proposed National Pearl Grading System and Accreditation Scheme has been given the thumbs up by most who have attended the meetings.

The setting up of a Black Pearl Trade Centre in Rarotonga has also been received favorably.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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