Pearl Farming in India – Types, Process and Profitability

Updated on 15th May, 2024, By Neesha Rathod
Pearl Farming in India – Types, Process and Profitability
Pearl Farming in India is a highly profitable business with potential to give 40-90% return on initial investment. This blog discusses the meaning, types, and the process of pearl cultivation, from the formation of pearls within oysters and mussels to the collection of mussels to harvesting of pearls.

Table of Content


Pearl farming is the process of producing natural, cultured, or artificial pearls from oysters or mussels in a given pond, canal or river. Of all the pearls produced, 99% are cultured pearls.

Pearl business is a highly profitable business to start in India. You can expect to earn a high return on investment ranging from 40 – 90% and if you have the patience to invest time for long, you can even expect 100% return on investment.

So, let us understand all aspects of pearl farming process one by one in the present blog. But, before we start exploring in detail, let us understand what a pearl is and how they are formed.

What is Pearl and How are they Formed?

Pearls, the “Queen of Gems”, are precious natural gems produced by marine oysters and freshwater mussels. They are shiny, lustrous, and come in various colours. They are formed when foreign particles such as sand or insects enter the oysters or mussels causing irritation. To protect itself from irritants oysters, secrete nacre (90% calcium carbonate) creates a layer of deposits over the foreign particles to form a natural pearl.

Pearl Farming in India

India has a long coastline extending from Gujarat to West Bengal and to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Along this coastline the natural beds of marine pearl oysters Pinctada Fucata are found in Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kutch, and Palk Bay Strait, whereas in the A& N Islands, the prevalent marine oyster is Pinctada Margeretifera.

The pearl fishery in India was prevalent until 1967 when last pearl fishery was done at Jamnagar coast in Gujarat. As a result, the gap between demand and supply of pearls became evident making it necessary for the government to start pearl culture in India.

Pearl farming in India started in 1969 when Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA) began pearl culturing of freshwater oysters or mussels. Today, in India, both marine pearls and freshwater pearls are cultured to meet the increasing demand for pearls.

Market Trends and Demand for Indian Pearls

Indian pearls are one of the finest of ‘Oriental Pearls’ and they are in high demand. Yet, as per the OEC World data, India is the 19th largest exporter of pearls and 6th largest importer of pearls globally in 2022.

Further, freshwater pearls are preferred for making pearls in India as they come in wide variety of colours, shapes and are more lustrous. Moreover, the cultured pearl is preferred compared to natural pearls and it is forecasted to grow further.

Benefits of Pearl Farming

  • The final product is lightweight and non-perishable, commanding a high price in the market.
  • Processing pearls is simple, and they do not require refrigeration. Thus, the cost of pearl farming is low compared to fish farming.
  • It can be easily integrated with other aquaculture activities like fish farming.
  • It can double the income of farmers as freshwater mussels are found almost in every canal, river, pond of a village.
  • By providing a sustainable source of pearls, it reduces the pressures on wild oysters.

Types of Pearls

Pearls can be of different types depending upon the source and nature of pearls. Based on source, they can be classified as freshwater pearls and marine pearls.

Based on nature, they can be categorised as natural pearls, cultured pearls, and artificial pearls. Let us see each one of them in brief.

Freshwater Pearls

Mussels or oysters living in ponds, canals, and rivers are the main source of freshwater pearls. They are relatively small in size, are less expensive, and come in a wide range of colours. China is the largest producer of freshwater pearls.

The three types of species found in India are Lamellidens marginalis, L. corrianus and Parreysia corrugata. They are mainly cultivated in Kashmir, Hyderabad, and Tamil Nadu.

Saltwater Pearls

Marine oysters are the main source of saltwater pearls. They are more expensive and lustrous, are larger in size and have less variety in size and colour. Japan, China, and Australia are main suppliers of marine pearls.

The main species found in India are Pinctada Fucata and Pinctada Margeretifera.

Natural Pearls

Natural pearls are formed naturally due to the deposition of nacre on the foreign particles that have entered the mussels or oysters.

Cultured Pearls

Cultured pearls are cultivated by surgically implanting foreign particles of a particular shape and size into the oysters’ body inducing them to secrete nacre. It is the most prevalent pearls produced across the world, including India.

Artificial Pearls

Artificial pearls are made of marbles, plastics, glass, shell beads, ivory, etc. They are coated with pearl essence – a mixture of silvery extract of fish scales and enamel.

Cultivation Process of Pearls

The pearl farming process comprises of a series of steps starting from selection of a site to selection of pearl farming kits to pearl harvesting. Let us see each step briefly.

Collections of Mussels

Mussels usually take 6 – 10 years to become ready for culture. So, hand-pick healthy mussel stocks for culture or implantation from natural water bodies such as rivers or ponds.

Select the mussels on the basis of their size. Usually, mussels measuring 8 cm in length and 35 gram in weight are ideal for culturing.

Pre-operative Conditioning

Pre-operative conditioning is an essential pre-requisite to aid surgical implantation. So, before performing surgical implantation, do the following:

  • Keep the selected mussels crowded for 24 – 36 hours to ease the relaxation of adductor muscles.
  • Stock the mussels in FRP/ferro cement tanks in aged tap water at a density of 1 mussel per litre of water.
  • Before starting the surgical procedure, keep the mussels in an upward facing position for 30 minutes so that the opening part (ventral side) is facing upward, and the umbo (dorsal side) is facing downwards.

Mussel Surgery

Mussel surgery to implant the nuclei into the mussel is the most crucial process in the entire pearl farming process.

For this you need to graft the nucleus made of shell powder or acrylic powder along with the mantle graft so that it later develops into a pearl sac.

Three different methods of implantation are in practice, which are

  1. Mantle cavity implantation
  2. Mantle tissue implantation
  3. Gonadal implantation

The choice of implantation method depends on the type of pearl targeted, that is, round pearl, designer pearl, or rice pearl etc.

Post-Operative Care

You should ensure post-operative care for a period of 7-10 days to minimise the mortality and the rejection of implanted nuclei.

While taking care, treat the mussels with a broad spectrum of antibiotics to minimise rejection and ensure quick healing.

They are kept for 24 hours and after a three-day interval again subsequently up to nine days and fed with green algae along with vigorous aeration.

Pond Culture

The depth of the pond should be 1.5-2.0 m with a clay-soil bottom, slightly alkaline water that is devoid of aquatic macrophytes and algal blooms like Microcystis and Euglena.

The ponds are employed with bamboo poles as rafts for suspending the implanted pearl mussels.

Pearl Harvesting

Harvesting of the pearls is carried out after the designated time of the culture, based on the implantation method undertaken i.e. 12–18 months.

The harvested mussels are sorted based on their quality which is governed by the shape, size, lustre, texture, and colour followed by value addition.

The mussels after harvest can be reused for implantation only if the mantle tissue method of surgery has been followed. But in the case of mantle cavity implantation method, the mussels must be sacrificed to harvest the pearls.

How Lucrative is Pearl Farming?

Pearl farming can be a highly profitable business. In India, freshwater mussels are largely preferred over marine oysters and the profit in pearl farming depends on several factors. These are:

  • Mortality: How many mussels are alive by the time they are ready for harvest?
  • Nucleus rejection: How many mussels have accepted the nucleus from donor mussel?

Further, each freshwater oyster containing two pearls costs INR 6 – INR 10 per piece. Depending upon the design, each harvester pearl can earn anywhere between INR 150 – INR 300.

 Now, if you want to start a 50,000 mussels project, then the total investment required is between INR 20 – 25 lakhs. Assuming only 45 – 55% of the total mussels are alive and yield pearls, then the return on investment after 2 years is anywhere between INR 50 – 55 lakhs.

Challenges in Pearl farming in India

Despite its economic value, profitability, minimum labour, there has been relatively little mussel farming in India compared to fish and shellfish culture. Underlying reasons are:

  • Low number of freshwater pearl farmers in India
  • Lack of an organised sector for pearl farming in the country.
  • Lack of proper brood stock management protocols.
  • Scattered availability of mussel broodstock.
  • Non-availability of standardised breeding technology.
  • Lack of standardised water quality management protocols as per different agro-climatic zones of India.
  • Few research institutes are involved in freshwater pearl mussel farming technology.
  • Poor extension network to disseminate the existing culture technologies and advances.

So, pearl farming, though a profitable business, involves huge challenges which need to be addressed for rapid dissemination of this important technology.

Prospects of Pearl Farming in India

To meet the financial risk associated with pearl farming the Government of India has been providing subsidies and incentives to pearl farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana.

Bhubaneshwar-based CIFA has been playing a pivotal role in disseminating the freshwater pearl culture technology to farmers and entrepreneurs who are willing to carry out freshwater pearl culture.

Every year it conducts a training program wherein the candidates receive hands-on training on the different methods of implantation. They are also trained on the culture practice technologies viz. the pre and post-operative care, food and feeding of mussels, optimal conditions necessary for pearl mussel culture, and water quality management.

Frequently Asked Questions on Pearl Farming in India – Types, Process and Profitability

1. How are pearls farmed?

Pearls are farmed either naturally or are cultured.

Indian government under Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana provides subsidies and training to those who want to start pearl farming.

Pearl farming is a lucrative business. You can earn anywhere between INR 12 – INR 15 lakhs annually with 5000 oysters after 2 years of initial investment.

Neesha Rathod
Published By
Neesha Rathod
Neesha holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a postgraduate degree in Rural Management. With over 10 years of experience in agriculture and the rural sector, she is a quick problem solver. She is inquisitive and has a deep analytics insight into any issues related to agriculture. She loves to travel and explore new places.
Read More

Popular Blogs

Browse Categories


Call Us At

whatsapp icon