Australia Autore pearl auctions resume, bringing shine to a challenging year

00:45  28 september  2020
00:45  28 september  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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(Supplied: Autore Pearls ). They also own Clipper Pearls which farms near Broome in Western Australia and now Elizabeth Bay in the NT. The Elizabeth Bay farm in the Northern Territory has had multiple owners in the past decade, including Arafura Pearls which went into voluntary administration

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Pearls from Elizabeth Bay in Arnhem Land are sold around the world. (Facebook: Autore Pearls) © Provided by ABC Health Pearls from Elizabeth Bay in Arnhem Land are sold around the world. (Facebook: Autore Pearls)

It has been a challenging year for Australia's pearling industry, with COVID-19 causing a range of issues for remote pearl farms across northern Australia.

Autore Pearls, which is Australia's second-biggest pearl producer, says the logistics of running its newest farm in the Northern Territory has been a real test.

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A pearl is a hard, rounded object produced by certain animals, primarily molluscs such as oysters. Pearl is an organic gem and has been used as jewelry for centuries. Pearls that are irregularly shaped rather than round are referred to as baroque.

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Chief executive Rosario Autore said one of the initial challenges of this year's harvest was actually getting people in and out of the company's remote Elizabeth Bay farm in Arnhem Land.

"We normally would have our pearl technicians working overseas come over [for the harvest in the Northern Territory], but they weren't allowed in," he said.

"There's a limited number of technicians available, so we had to search all over for people, and it wasn't easy."

He said the job of getting pearls out of the farms and down to Autore's headquarters in Sydney had also been complicated and expensive.

"To get our pearls from Elizabeth Bay back to Sydney has cost us three times more than what it costs to get them overseas to markets like Hong Kong and Japan," he said.

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"Every time we turn there's been an issue with flights, getting nuclei [for pearl seeding] has faced delays, but we've just had to get on and find solutions."

Some shine on the horizon

Autore owns 10 pearl farms located in Indonesia and Australia and, according to Mr Autore, this year's harvest has delivered some excellent results.

"It was probably one of the best harvests the company has seen in about 10 years," he said.

"We did get quite a few very large pearls out of the harvest, which will help … and some very, very unique pearls.

"The challenge we face now is that our costs have gone up purely because of the logistics, and we now have to sell the product into a market that's partially panicked about the current world situation."

[Autore video]

He said the company just held its first overseas auction for the year and would hold another in Japan this week, which he said was a sign of the market improving.

"Sales in March, April and June were not very exciting at all, but we've had extremely good sales from July onwards," he said.

"For the first time in 10 months we've just had our first auction in Asia, which was successful, and we achieved reasonable prices."

In a normal year, the company would host pearl auctions in Japan and Hong Kong three to four times.

Mr Autore said the pearling industry learnt a lot during the global financial crisis, and he was feeling confident about the industry.

"It's not easy at the moment. I'll be honest with you," he said.

"But we're starting to get some good sales, and we're optimistic about the future, particularly after such a good harvest."

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