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Black Chinese - made in Russia

Alexander Saveliev on where the elite delicacy gets to the shelves of shops

In Rosrybolovstvo, they predict that by the year 2000 2030 will double the production of aquaculture black caviar. The task, frankly speaking, is not ambitious. However, it is difficult - if feasible at all. And poaching is not the only obstacle to this goal, although the flow of criminally harvested black caviar from the Far East is only increasing.

Black Chinese - made in Russia
Photo: shutterstock.com

Alexander Saveliev

Head of the Fisheries Information Agency
Contrary to the prevailing stereotypes, the center for illegal mining of black gold has long moved from the Astrakhan lower reaches of the Volga to the lower reaches of the Amur River in the Khabarovsk Territory. It is from there, from the east of Russia, as well as from the ways of delicatessen supply to the main regions of consumption located in the west, we regularly read in criminal news about the detention of halftone parties. Of course, crime undermines legal business, but does not destroy it completely, like another danger. Also from the east.

The threat in China. More precisely - in the incredible development and incredible profitability of Chinese aquaculture.

Today, in the Russian market, the price per kilogram of black caviar is 45 thousand rubles. In China, the purchase price is about $ 20, that is, about 1200 rubles. Thus, this makes it completely pointless to produce black caviar in Russia. Moreover, the flow of Chinese black caviar to the Russian market significantly reduced the profitability of poaching. The situation on the Russian market now looks like it's much cheaper, easier and safer to buy a delicacy in the Middle Kingdom and sell it to us. Which, in fact, is happening with great success.

Yes, Chinese black caviar of low quality (and who now gives some quality to the quality?) Yes, it has a "special" taste (who now remembers the real taste of black caviar ?!). However, the Chinese feed the tens of tons of sturgeon, fed, by the way, from broodstocks exported from Russia to the 90-ies, with a great deal of enthusiasm, and abundantly spiky the non-interesting black delicacy with preservatives. Worse, the size of the carcasses of 7-9-year-old sturgeons that come to us for imports from China is much larger than in the aquaculture of other countries. This indicates quite clearly the presence of growth hormones in the feed. At the same time, sturgeons give caviar only at 8-th year of life, and in China it happens much faster. Nobody seriously studied what the Chinese are pumping our legendary fish.

In figures, the production of black caviar is as follows. The total volume of world production is approaching 300 tons. France produces 28 tons, Germany - 12 tons, Italy - 26 tons, the USA - 40 tons, Latin America - 15 tons, Spain - 5 tons, Israel-6, Iran-1,2 tons. How much China produces is unknown, accurate data are not available. Although only one large Chinese company in 2016 produced 36 tons of black caviar. I think the total figure is about 150 tons.

In total, according to the Rosselkhoznadzor, China has accredited 136 enterprises that have the right to supply sturgeon and caviar to the Russian Federation.

And supply. And not only legally.

In Russia, the cultivation of sturgeon is done by the order of 60 companies, which in total produced 2016 tons of black caviar in 44, according to Rosrybolovstva. Data on exports and imports for the past year yet, but in 2015, for export, according to the Federal Customs Service, it took 6,5 tons. And as much import was imported, mainly from China. The fresh figures will obviously be much higher. Add to this the flows through Kazakhstan and other routes, and it becomes clear that the Chinese have filled us with black caviar.

The volume of consumption of black caviar in Russia is impossible to estimate: poachers do not report on their work, and suppliers from China (those who do it illegally) do not. Colleagues at the FSB estimate the illegal turnover of black caviar in Russia at $ 1,5 billion.

The recent news about how the Moscow employees of the "Post of Russia", using X-rays, calculated half a ton of doubtful eggs, smiled not because the layers of red hid the black caviar, but because the cargo came from the Kamchatka Territory, where the sturgeon never slept. Of course, it was delivered to Kamchatka from China.

Next came the news even more "more fun." Already a ton of black caviar was confiscated by Tver operatives in one of the pigsties in the Rzhevsky district, where the masterpieces of Chinese aquaculture were packed under the "Gold of the Caspian" brand for expensive supermarkets in the capital at a retail price of 80 (eighty!) Thousand rubles per kilogram.

Actually, this is how this simple and extremely profitable business works - Chinese caviar is simply packaged into a well-known Russian brand.

This problem first arose in 2015 year, last year - it has become even more acute. It is known that both the police and the FSB are working to suppress the channels of Chinese "import" and the opening of frauds to turn it into Russian products. I am sure that the above-mentioned criminal cases are not extreme, and we will hear more than once about high-profile detentions. However, it is already clear that in every second can of black caviar from three, on which there is the inscription "Made in Astrakhan", in fact - black aquaculture roe from China.

Therefore, the forecast of a double increase in the production of black caviar in Russia so far does not seem convincing.

First, it is necessary to reliably protect the native manufacturer from rampant Chinese expansion.
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