Madagascar, home to Africa’s first caviar farm - GulfToday

Madagascar home to Africas first caviar farm

A plate of Rova Caviar.

Floating fish laboratories are common in Russia or Iran, around the Caspian Sea – but also common in Lake Mantasoa, a hydropower reservoir in the highlands of Madagascar at an altitude of 1,400 meters (4,600 feet). It is Africa’s first, and so far only, caviar farm.

With the world’s fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition, Madagascar is an unlikely source for a luxury Food.  But Mantasoa’s cool fresh water and inexpensive labour inspired three French entrepreneurs to set up a company in 2009, and they imported their first batch of fertilised sturgeon eggs from France four years later.

"Friends thought we were crazy," said Delphyne Dabezies, one of the founders of Acipenser.

Delphyne Dabezies, head of Rova Caviar and Chef Gang Yu at the Imperial Treasure Restuarant at Paris.

Now her Parisian friends are eating not only their words, but also the subtle flavours of Madagascar's newest delicacy: the Rova Caviar brand.

A short drive from the lake lie the hatching ponds and processing factory, a featureless building where employees in head-to-toe sterile white protective clothing work in a chilled, spotless interior.

Acipenser employs between 250 and 300 locals, depending on the season. It made its first batch in 2017.

This year the company will produce almost 5,000 kg for export - mostly to France, but also the United States and Reunion Island.

 A plate of Rova Caviar at a restaurant in Antananarivo

The global caviar market is projected to grow at 7% per year to around $560 million by 2025, according to Adroit Market Research, an Indian-based business analytics and consulting company.

Dabezies hopes to double production in the next five years as Acipenser introduces caviar from five other varieties of sturgeon. This month, the company launched an online shop.

Outside the factory, a row of 19 rectangular hatching ponds lie side-by-side like a barcode.
Beneath the grey-green waters in two of the ponds are 1,500 highly-prized beluga sturgeon which, when they start to mature in 2026, will carry a payload each worth $86,600 at current prices.

An even more exclusive fish lurks beneath the surface of another pond: a rare albino sturgeon. Their creamy roe sells for $34,500 per kg. The Guinness Book of Records calls it the world's most expensive food.


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