Black caviar is not cheap. A 100-g can of caviar can cost up to 100 dollars. It is connected with the investments to be put into the business, and connected with time. After all, the wait for the first spawning takes about 13 years.
“We hang cages in the holes of floating metal pipes with air inside. The fish lives here, in principle, in natural conditions. The only thing we restrict is the area of its habitat,” explains Anton Yaremenko, Black Caviar Farm Owner.
Entrepreneur Anton shows his aquafarm, located near Kyiv. Sterlet and sturgeon live in the Dnipro river in 3-meter-deep reservoirs. Farmers buy the fish regularly. Anton says that it is necessary in order to renew progeny. And this business is already beginning to bear fruit. He has invested in it for about 7 years:
“It’s a long-term business. And it is very expensive. I have to constantly reduce costs for my own needs. All money goes to the fish.”
The black caviar market is still new in Ukraine. So, it lacks state financial backing. Anton learned all the intricacies of doing the business in Poland. He worked there to gain experience:
“I’d like the Ukrainian fishing sector to match the standards of Poland. I’ve visited many foreign farms. You come to a farm, and right there is a poster at the entrance. It says “The farm was 70 per cent financed by the European Union.” It’s great. Unfortunately, we have nothing like this.”
Generally, the main daily expenses of an aqua farm are for fish meal. This farm produces its own.
“We buy frozen Black Sea sprat from Odesa. Then we process it into fishmeal. We buy vitamins, cereals, Ukrainian corn, soy. Everything from farmers,” says Yaremenko.
Such granules of their own production cost half as much as meal produced by other enterprises. Moreover, the quality is higher.
Yaremenko says that they use no conserving agents or similar substances because they have their mini-production:
“If we need, for example, a ton of fish food for the next week, we quickly produce and immediately feed fish. We constantly use this production.”
Enterprising Ukrainian businessmen tried not only to occupy a niche in the world market of delicacies but also to market a new product:
“Do you know Koi carp, with the bright color? We plan to breed sterlet Koi. It will be an exclusive novelty.”
But that is not all. It is not a secret that “golden caviar” — so called food of sheiks — a product of albino sterlet, is considered the most expensive in the world. 100 grams costs about 2.5 thousand dollars. And it is very rare.
“In natural conditions, the sterlet albino does not survive. Because of its white color, predators eat it first. But in industrial conditions, it is possible to breed a high-grade sterlet albino,” says Roman Bardyk, Black Caviar Farm Employee.
These farmers breed starlet-albino. Of course, they have to work against nature, because albinism is a genetic anomaly. And to bring it out specifically is a very difficult task. But the product promises to be of great demand in the market.
France is already interested in the delicacy produced in Ukraine because the quality of the product is very high and the price is twice as cheap compared to European prices. In order to sell it abroad, Ukrainian entrepreneurs had to spend a large sum of money to construct a workshop that would meet European standards. This requires several stages of water and air purification, special wash basins and disinfection methods, and special circular room layout.
“In principle, it’s rather simple and banal stuff. And logical. But when it comes to buying and doing it… For the Ukrainian producer who does not have some supercapital, it’s very difficult to do it,” told Yaremenko.
— How much did it cost, if it’s no secret?
— 380 thousand dollars.
Without grants, it is an impracticable amount for Ukrainian businesses. But at the same time, all the expenditures open the doors for generating new revenue.
“We have a preliminary arrangement for working with the European network. For example, if I sell, say, 300 kg a year here, they say that I can start with 600kg per year,” says Yaremenko.
Now it’s up to just a small bureaucratic procedure — to wait until Brussels certifies the business. Moreover, German experts have already recognized that Anton’s enterprise is one of the best. In the near future, Europeans will be able to appreciate a high-quality Ukrainian product.