February 7, 2011

Russia Resuming Caviar Exports After 9 Years

A fisheries watchdog said on Monday that Russia has resumed sturgeon caviar exports to the European Union (EU) after a nine-year ban.

Alexander Savelyev, a spokesman for the Federal Fisheries Agency, said that Russia has decided to allow exports to Europe of up to 330 pounds of black caviar from farmed fish as "a symbolic volume."

"The goal is to break the ice which has formed over the past nine years when not a single permit was issued for exports of the black caviar from Russia," Savelyev told AFP.

Russia banned exports of black caviar in 2002 after fears of extinction of sturgeon prized for its caviar eggs.  However, the move encouraged poaching as well as illegal exports to Europe through Turkey and the Caucasus.

"An attentive European wouldn't understand this news," Savelyev told AFP.

"He is used to seeing cans of Russian caviar. They didn't disappear anywhere. That was illegal import from Russia."

Savelyev said he foresaw caviar export growth in the future and several fish farms already operating in the Kaluga, Rostov, Astrakhan, and Novosibirsk regions.

"We expect a lot of farmed caviar in a year or two," he told AFP, adding Russia could produce up to 220 tons of caviar a year for a 385-tons market.