Global Food Studies Research Associate Mr Theo Simos recently completed a project update on a PARDI project: PRA 2013:001 “Assessing potential for developing the mother of pearl (MOP) handicraft sector in Fiji” focussing on product design and development, workshop establishment and trainee capacity development.
The Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) is a partnership involving the Secretariat of Pacific Communities (SPC), the University of the South Pacific (USP) and a consortium of Australian agencies including University of Queensland, University of Adelaide, University of the Sunshine Coast, James Cook University, Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The initiative is made possible through the Australian Government’s focus on developing opportunities for high-value agriculture, forestry and fisheries products in Pacific island countries (PICs).
According to the PARDI October 2013 Newsletter, in Fiji the project team has identified an annual market value of around F$10 million for the MOP handicraft and pearl sector of which only around 10% is met by local production. This highlights significant potentials for the local industry development.
Theo and his team have been working closely with local communities to develop 20 variations of fashion wear items as well as 14 variations of everyday wear items. Design and product innovation were principally undertaken by Marie Erl (contemporary and traditional jewellery designer and trainer NZ), with direction from Robert Kennedy, a Fiji-based fashion designer, and handicrafts buyer from Tappoo (Fiji based retailer since 1941 with over 1200 staff).
The designs of these items integrate traditional design and styling cues and uses with dominate use of the sell and some finishing improvements. The products are made from local ingredients to meet “Fiji made” accreditation. These would position the products in the premium range ie +$100 for the fashion range and $50 for the every day wear.
Collaborating with Ba women’s forum, the project has also facilitated a group training for local women to develop “train the trainer skills”. The training has provided an excellent opportunity for empowering mature age women who were unemployed.
Fijian Ministry of Industry and Trade have shown strong support for the project with Ministers and permanent secretaries attending graduations of the group training. The presence of Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to these events has attracted a lot of press interest with articles supporting the group appearing on newsprint radio and television and online media.
Support on product quality and finishing imporvements to get range “retail ready”; packaging and labelling as well as pricing for retailing ranging will also be provided to local communities in the next phase of this project.