French Polynesia - Industry



After tourism, French Polynesia's primary money-earning industry and export product is cultured pearls. Founded in 1963, the industry has shown buoyant growth. In 1990, pearl exports brought the islands $38 million, a figure that had risen to $184.9 million by 2000. Although production has steadily increased from 599 kilograms (1,318 pounds) in 1990 to 7,116 kilograms (15,655 pounds) in 2000, the price per kilogram has been dropping, from US$27.67 in 1997 to $20.84 in 1999. The fall can be blamed on the large quantities of pearls being harvested, which has depressed the price, and to the weakness of the Japanese market, the largest consumer of Tahitian pearls. Producers have tried to address these trends through brand differentiation, by promoting the uniqueness of Tahitian pearls, and by turning their attention to the U.S. market. But the failure of producers in the territory to form an effective marketing cartel, and pressure from other Pacific producers (such as the Cook Islands), have slowed the impact of these efforts.

Other manufactured goods include beer, sandalwood oil, sandals, and handicrafts. Food processing is also important, especially the refining of dried coconut flesh (or copra) into oil for use in vegetable oil, margarine, candles, soap, and cosmetics. French Polynesia's extensive waters also show signs of rich deposits of nickel, cobalt, manganese, and copper. Though plans exist for their extraction, mining will prove expensive.

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