From a lake high in Madagascar, Africa's own caviar

  • Wednesday 03, July 2019 10:11 AM
  • From a lake high in Madagascar, Africa's own caviar
Sharjah24 – AFP: Madagascar, renowned for its unique wildlife and vanilla production, has a new claim to fame the island nation is Africa's first and only source of caviar.
The business is an unlikely project in a country beset by grinding poverty, but its owners are determined that luxury foods can play a part in improving Madagascar's economy.

The island off the coast of Mozambique is still only a minor player in terms of global production, which is dominated by China, Italy and France though producers in the Caspian Sea still boast the most prized caviar, from Beluga sturgeon.

Last year Mozambique produced a tonne of caviar in a world market of about 340 tonnes a year.

But its ambitious promoters hope to soon increase production to five tonnes.

The unusual plan is the brainchild of Dabezies, her husband Christophe and their partner Alexandre Guerrier all of them French entrepreneurs based in Madagascar.

The sturgeon that produce unfertilised caviar roe are kept in Lake Mantasoa, perched at an altitude of 1,400 metres (46,000 feet) east of the capital Antananarivo.

Training the staff has been a major part of the project.

Sturgeon are imported from Russia in the form of fertilised eggs, which hatch in a special nursery facility in Mantasoa.

When they reach seven grams (a quarter of an ounce), they are moved to freshwater ponds, and then into large cages in the lake when they weigh 500 grams (around a pound).

At 1.5 kilogrammes, the males are killed and only the females are kept on until their eggs are ready.

- Colour, taste and smell -
The process demands patience and skill.

The first imported eggs arrived in Mantasoa in 2013, and the first grams of caviar did not go on sale until June 26, 2017, Madagascar's independence day.

The quality of the harvest depends on the dexterity of one man, 23-year-old Gaston Soavan'i Thomas.

Its price is a relative bargain 100 euros ($144) per 100 grams far cheaper than in Europe.

According to Guinness World Records, a kilogramme of the costliest caviar from albino sturgeon off the coast of Iran regularly fetches over $25,000.

Last year Rova Caviar's stock sold out in just a few weeks.