I often get asked “Why does caviar cost so much?”.
Caviar prices can vary from £200-300 per kilo all the way up to £5,0000 per kilo depending on the type of caviar.
Producing caviar is a long term investment and if your looking to produce a quality product then you need to expect to pump money into the business for at least 3-4 years before you get any financial gain from the production. Many producers go for the smaller sturgeon types that only take 2-4 years to mature, such as the Acipensar Baerii, also known as the Siberian Sturgeon. This is often known as a quick win product. The fish don’t take up as much space as the larger sturgeon types and mature a lot quicker. The larger sturgeon types such as The Asetra/Ossietra/Oscietra ( acipenser gueldenstaedtii) can take up to 6-8 years to produce a quality product.
Some producers take he first harvest where others can wait for the 2nd or even 3rd harvest. The longer you wait the better the product (bigger roe), but obviously most cost involved.
As Sturgeon are an endangered species in the wild most commercial caviar is now farmed. The amount of permits and other restrictions also helps to hike up the cost. As caviar is shipped and sold all over the world there is also large costs around shipping.shipped as quick as possible, chilled at all times and there are several permits you need to have in place in regards to export/import. This is all controlled by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). I have heard of several shipments of Beluga Caviar being destroyed for just the smallest mistake on the import/export permit, costing the importer many thousands of £/$/€.
The Chinese and Persians were some of the first to see Caviar for what it was, a delicacy. It was the Russian’s that turned it into an international delicacy and for many years it was only for Royalty. Any commoners caught in the act of fishing/consuming this sought after delicacy could expect a swift trial and certain death.
Then we come to the king of Caviar, Beluga (Huso Huso). From my personal point of view the Iranian Beluga is the best around. Steeped in tradition , its the Gucci of Caviar. And since most bans on import of Iranian products have been lifted the annual production has risen from about 20 tonnes to over 200 tonnes and growing. This has not helped lower the price, but quite the opposite. Many prices have gone up between 15-20%. A really good Beluga can take between 8-12 years to Harvest, and a due to the size of the fish you also need plenty of space. So, when you consider he cost of Caviar, ensure you think about what it takes to get this delicacy on to your pearl spoon/plate. Probably about 10 years and thousands of hours of work.