Farmed caviar products from China. (Photo: caviar-china.com)
Chinese caviar gains popularity in foreign markets
Monday, March 26, 2012, 23:30 (GMT + 9)
A Chinese company has been raising millions of sturgeons in northeast China to produce much-coveted caviar.
After some failed attempts, Hangzhou Sturgeon Technology Co, Ltd has raised more than 20 million sturgeons in Thousand Island Lake. As sturgeons cannot tolerate high temperatures, every summer fishers transfer all the sturgeons to a huge pool where giant pumps fill it with cool lake water.
Another difficulty the company overcame is identifying the male from the female sturgeons before they reached three years of age.
"The male are not worth much, if male and female are raised mixed together for seven to 10 years, we will no doubt make no money," said Wang Bin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy, Xinhua reports.
Fishers had to invite experts from Hungary to determine the animals’ sex. They carried out B ultrasound or puncture samples for microscopic examination from each sturgeon.
|Fresh caviar. (Photo: caviar-china.com)
“Eggs can be extracted only during the first 11 weeks of the sturgeon's stage 4 maturity, that is, during the eighth year of its life," Wang said. "This is very difficult to master. If a little bit too early, eggs are not rich enough, vice versa, eggs wither."
Once extracted, 16 processing operations for the eggs must be completed within 15 minutes by human hands. Due to lack of expertise, fishers invited processing masters from Iran to help -- at high cost.
By 2006, Chinese caviar finally entered international markets. It was sold in France and to Lufthansa Airlines for its first class meals.
Two years ago, many European countries drafted laws to ban the fishing of wild sturgeons. At that point, the whole world was producing only 150 tonnes of caviar, of which China accounted for 8 to 10 per cent.
| Caviar dish. (Photo: caviar-china.com)
China adopted the "company + farmers" farming system which offered a greater cost advantage than its European factory production counterpart. The Chinese farming mode allows the producer to provide unified fish species and unified feed to fishers, and collect the mature sturgeons after six quality testings are done in three years.
"In the past, the most common high-end banquet courses were shark's fin and bird's nest in China, but now, shark's fin and bird's nest are not popular for environmental protection,” said Zhou Jiahao, president of Hong Hao Restaurant Management Co, Ltd. “Restaurants now fancy caviar in order to fill the blank in the top ingredients."
By Natalia Real