In a previous post about a new sturgeon farming operation in the unlikely locale of Abu Dhabi, this blog asked "if you build it, will they spawn?" While the jury may be out about the economic viability of raising caviar-producing fish in the Arabian desert (indoors, no less), an article from this Saturday's New York Times makes it clear that sturgeon farming -- much of it taking place far from the Caspian, caviar's traditional source -- is becoming a global phenomenon. From the article:
Caviar might be perceived as one of the world’s most exclusive products, but its production is expanding far and fast.
In countries as divergent as China, Finland, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, new sturgeon farms are starting to fill the void left by the depleted stock of wild beluga and other species of sturgeon from the Caspian Sea, the traditional source of caviar.
As the new farms emerge, they hope to change the dynamics of caviar, popularizing the product while at the same time expanding production and sales.
First, though, they will have to convince consumers that caviar produced somewhere other than the Caspian is not a luxury knockoff.
Unlike Champagne, caviar is not a brand name; in fact, many other types of fish eggs other than sturgeon are also sold as caviar. The luxury cachet has come in large part from Russian and Iranian caviar producers, who have successfully sold the image of black caviar from Caspian sturgeon as the only true product.
Despite the worldwide financial crisis, caviar is among a select group of luxury goods that has weathered the downturn in consumer spending, maintaining a wholesale price of about 1,000 euros a kilogram ($590 a pound) for most varieties.
That golden market niche, however, has been shriveling. The sturgeon population in the lower Volga River — which empties into the Caspian Sea and used to be the world’s chief source of black caviar — has plunged 99 percent in the last 15 years, according to the Russian fisheries agency.
The rest of the article can be found here. More on the caviar venture in Abu Dhabi here.