Perles de Tahiti Under New Management

Martin Coeroli is leaving GIE Perles de Tahiti, the nonprofit public relations and economic interest group for the international promotion of Tahitian cultured pearls.

“I am quitting Perles de Tahiti to work for the government of French Polynesia,” writes Coeroli, the former general manager of the organization. Coeroli reportedly has been offered a job as minister of the environment.

Coeroli had been a strong proponent of marketing the top end of the Tahitian pearl harvest, but fewer top-quality pearls are produced now compared with the remainder of the production. In a statement, GPT said the pearl producers on its board of directors are “worried by the persistent slumps of their goods, just as by the recurring fall of its trading price.”

That “slump” has resulted in a decrease in the export tax that funds GPT’s operations, which prompted the organization to reduce its operational budget for 2008 and revise its plans for the second half. The reworked plan includes the departure of Coeroli, the elevation of vice manager Merehau Anastas to an interim management position, and a new marketing and promotional strategy. The group has decided to concentrate promotional activities on three priority markets—China, Japan, and the United States—which account for approximately 90 percent of Tahitian cultured pearls exports.

Bo Torrey, editor for Pearl World, the International Pearling Journal, notes that the export tax in Tahiti reportedly will be abolished Oct. 1. This tax has long been used to finance GPT travel, expenses, and promotion and to police nacre thickness and overall pearl quality prior to exportation.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg of a tremendous internal struggle they are having in Tahiti,” writes Torrey. “To those who knew him, Martin Coeroli got short shrift for the success he achieved for promoting Tahitian pearls. The ramifications of what is transpiring will have an effect on many, including the Cultured Pearl Association of America whose budget for black pearls promotion will surely be affected.”

In the next few days, the Cultured Pearl Association of America will be issuing a press release in response to this latest news from Tahiti.

CPAA posted an open letter to the U.S. jewelry industry on its Web site,  accusing the Japanese pearl industry of wanting to get a prorated share of the funds, noting that Coeroli “argued that the promotional money should be used where the pearls are ultimately consumed, i.e. the USA.”

The letter continues, “The promotional dollars have been severely cut back for 2009, and you will see much less advertising of Tahitian pearls in 2009.”

The CPAA board of directors wrote a letter (also posted on its Web site) to Alfred Martin, chairman of the GPT board of directors, saying that they were “disturbed to learn of the closing of Perles de Tahiti’s promotional arm and the removal of Martin Coeroli as Director.” The letter argues that “the funding to the U.S. is disproportioned and unfair.” It based that argument on the claim that the U.S. market imports more than 40 percent of the product but gets only 10 percent of the funding.

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