Last Updated on July 29, 2020

Rova Caviar – The First of its Kind in Africa

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Africa’s first ever caviar-producing sturgeon facility in Madagascar has decided to postpone its spring harvest this year. This is due to its supply chains being retracted and the lockdown the island nation imposed because of the coronavirus.  

The caviar farm produces roe for the wealthy diners of Paris and other global capitals. But as social distancing restrictions ease, Rova Caviar is again primed to extract the next batch of roe. The roe, extracted from the abdomen of its pure-bred sturgeon; will be rinsed, salt-cured and tinned.

A 250g tin of Rova Caviar’s “Supreme” range is priced at €700 ($757). Each fish produces up to 12kg of roe, which makes its produce worth nearly as much as an Audi A6. 

The Patience required for Caviar Farming

A caviar farm is a business model that demands substantial early investment, and lots of patience. The Rova Caviar was established in 2009 however, it only started trading in 2017. The staff of the farm had to wait eight years for their first generation of French-imported sturgeon to grow to sexual maturity.

Delphyne Dabezies, one of the three founders of Rova Caviar said the company has been it hard. This is because the countries where Rova’s caviar is sold are in lockdown. Delphyne has lived in Madagascar since the 1990s. She also said that as for farming, Rova is carrying on business with the same seriousness and passion despite the lockdown. 

“From the hatchery to the cages in the lake, the sturgeon are very alive, they keep growing. They have to be fed and their wellbeing looked after every day. There is no shortage of work”. 

The farm, where masked staff have daily temperature checks, contain thousands of caviar-producing sturgeon. This number includes 1,500 prized Beluga, made famous for roe that gives a rich, deep, buttery taste. Once they reach maturity in 2026, each should carry a payload worth $86,600. Rova Caviar produced over 5 tonnes of caviar in 2019, part of a world market of about 340 tonnes. 

Related: List of The Most Profitable Farming Businesses in Kenya

After its successful entry into New York and Hong Kong, Delphyne says her company is positioning to enter Russia’s well-established market. Retailers are also being sourced in Nigeria and other African countries,

Chinese competition

According to UK-based market research company Technavio, the global caviar market was forecast to reach $1.55bn by 2021. This is a predicted increase of almost 75% from 2016. However, this increase is one that is doubt as the impacts of coronavirus become clearer.

The elite status and high cost of caviar has proved particularly alluring to the rapidly expanding number of Chinese high net worth individuals. While China is a significant consumer of global supply, it is the country from which producers like Rova face their greatest competition.  

After witnessing the near destruction of sturgeon from pollution in their own lakes, Chinese caviar farms are now flourishing. Chinese production ramped up in the wake of a US ban on imports from the Caspian Sea in 2005.

Chinese caviar has since flooded the US and European markets, causing prices to plummet. According to the UN FAO the import price to the US fell from $850,000 per tonne in January 2012 to $350,000 per tonne in November 2018, despite growing demand. As part of the ongoing trade war between China and the US, Washington imposed an initial 10% tariff on Chinese caviar which could rise to a potential 25%.  

With spring harvest postponed and fears rising over the future of the global dining industry, Rova can only focus on pampering its prized stock while hoping for better days.  

“We do not want to be the biggest global caviar producer,” Delphyne explains. “Our ambition is to produce caviar that is acknowledged to be the best in the world. At the same time respecting nature and living beings, and we are doing everything in our power to achieve this goal”. 

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