By Yaroslava Kiryukhina
Black caviar has long been a symbol of Russian affluence, and today is seems true more than ever.
The aristocrat’s hors d’oeuvre is the salted roe derived from the sturgeon, one of the most threatened groups of animals on the planet. Black caviar is worth more than gold and prized by gourmets around the world.
But the decline in sturgeon numbers means the genuine tiny, shiny black eggs becoming a rarity in stores.
Instead, counterfeit caviar is filling the shelves. Pike caviar looks similar in every way, but is no way comparable to sturgeon eggs when it comes to taste. However, aficionados are increasingly turning to the lower-priced red caviar, produced by salmon, to satisfy their roe desires.
Even red caviar prices are expected to sky-rocket ahead of the New Year, a holiday most Russians associate with a sandwich topped with butter and the red beads.
Last summer, the cost of salmon caviar rose by 70 percent, largely because of a bad start to the salmon season in eastern Russia. Later, normal market prices returned – about $50 a kilo – thanks to large imports of frozen red caviar from Alaska.
Between 40 and 60 percent of the red caviar in Russia comes from fisheries in the far eastern part of the country. Annual production of salmon caviar in Russia is estimated between 11,000 tons and 13,000 tons. About 1,500 tons of frozen red caviar had been imported to Russia as of August, worth more than $13 million, the Federal Customs Service reported.
Almost 90 percent of the imported caviar was declared at $7 to $9 per kilo, several times lower than the average price of Russian caviar.
Russian caviar market experts say salmon-roe shortages and price fluctuations are largely a result of conflicts between caviar processors on the eastern coast and those near the Caspian Sea. More....