Iran has taken steps to raise caviar exports by 50 percent by increasing the number of sturgeon farms, said an official with Iran Fisheries Organization.
Talking to Iran Daily, the director general of the Office of Recovering and Protecting the Genetic Resources of Aquatic Resources of IFO said the most valuable and expensive caviar in the world belongs to Iran.
Referring to the growing trend of caviar production in Iran, Nasser Karami-Rad added that according to the statistics of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), published in 2018, in terms of production of sturgeon meat, Iran ranked fourth in the world, after China, Armenia and Russia, while Iran held third place in 2017.
The IFO official went on to say that according to our plans, we will be in second place soon.
“There is no official statistics on caviar production in the world; FAO statistics on sturgeon meat production is mostly referred for this purpose,” Karami-Rad said.
“At the moment, our production gap with China is a bit large, but the plans made for the coming years will definitely help to minimize the gap,” he stated, adding that the quality of caviar produced in Iran is far better than that in China.
Iran’s annual caviar exports stood at 1.5 tons during the Iranian year to March 19, 2020, the IFO official said, adding that 2.5 tons of the product were exported during the nine months to December 20, 2020.
“Currently, Iran ranks first in the world in terms of production of beluga sturgeon, which is considered the most valuable and expensive caviar source in the world,” he noted.
The official said European countries including Germany, Spain, France, Norway, Switzerland as well as Persian Gulf littoral states and the United States are main target markets for Iranian caviar.
Regarding the price of caviar, Karami-Rad said: “Before the outbreak of the coronavirus in the world, the price of caviar had reached nine to 10 million tomans per kilogram, but now every kilogram of caviar is about eight to nine million tomans.”
The price of caviar in the global market varies from EUR1,300 to EUR2,000 per kilo, he added.
Regarding sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea, Karami explained: “Due to widespread sturgeon fishing over the past decades, the number of this species of Caspian Sea fish have decreased.”
“Five species of sturgeon fish in the Caspian Sea were listed as endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),” Karami-Rad said.
He continued: “According to this, the five Caspian Sea littoral states, which are members of the Caspian Sea Aquatic Bio-resources Commission, decided ten years ago in a meeting to ban commercial sturgeon fishing.”
“At the last meeting of the commission, which was held via videoconference in Tehran almost a month ago, the members decided to extend the ban for one year during 2021.”
The official said: “After fishing was banned, countries moved to sturgeon breeding in inland waters.”
Iran also put sturgeon breeding on its agenda with the aim of producing caviar and sturgeon meat as well as preserving sturgeon reserves in the Caspian Sea, he noted.
Referring to the production of farmed sturgeon in Iran, Karami-Rad said: “At the end of the last Iranian year (March 19, 2020), over 10.6 tons of farmed caviar were produced from the country’s sturgeon farms and the amount of sturgeon meat production in the country was about 2,530 tons.
“By March 2020, 130 farms were established in 21 provinces of the country, which are rapidly increasing and now the figure has reached almost 150 farms,” the IFO official stated.
Most of our farms are in Gilan and Mazandaran provinces and the rest are scattered in other provinces, Karami-Rad said, adding that even in Hormuzgan Province, where the climate is not suitable for sturgeon production and breeding, there are 10 sturgeon farms.