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By Nazario Rodriguez Jr.

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 31) - Palauans have harvested more than 400 tons of trochus [a mollusc whose shell is exported for buttons and jewelry] since the season started last May, according to the two companies that are buying the seasonal seashell.

Speaking on behalf of Belau Transfer & Terminal Co., Carolyn N. Takada estimated that they have already purchased over 300 tons with a daily average of 7 tons.

Polycarp International Enterprises said it has purchased over 100 tons.

Takada, eldest daughter of former President Kuniwo Nakamura, said there is very strong competition between the two firms in the purchase of the expensive commodity.

In a separate interview, PIE president Ephram Basilius said it is not only the companies that are benefiting, but also the people who are harvesting trochus.

"This is an opportunity for them to make their own profit. This happens only once a year," Basilius said, who also expressed satisfaction over the government’s regulations on harvesting the seashell.

He said they are encouraging the people to concentrate on collecting trochus since there are only two more weeks to go before the harvest season ends.

"We owe it to the people who are harvesting it. I am thankful to the workers and I appreciate the foreign companies," Takada said.

However, due to the "competitive atmosphere," Takada said there will be a price increase, but she preferred not to mention the figure.

The current price per pound is $1.65 with meat, and $1.70 cleaned.

Basilius said PIE will follow BTTC price adjustment.

Both companies preferred not to disclose the total amount of money they have spent for purchasing trochus and the money they get when selling to foreign companies.

Companies from Japan, South Korea, China, Australia and Hong Kong are buying the trochus.

The finished products include jewelry, buttons for clothing, art decorative purposes and even house tiles.

Takada said about five years ago, "you could really smell the trochus season due to the big volume."

Under the law, the trochus season ends on June 15.

Basilius wants the season extended.

But, he added, "I think the government is doing the right thing. We are all anticipating for the upcoming South Pacific Games and we don’t want the visitors to experience the bad smell from the trochus during their stay here."

June 1, 2005

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