Russia resumes sturgeon caviar exports to Europe

Russia has resumed sturgeon caviar exports to the European Union after a nine-year ban, a fisheries watchdog said Monday.

Russia has decided to allow exports to Europe of up to 150 kg (330 lbs) of black caviar from farmed fish as "a symbolic volume," said Alexander Savelyev, a spokesman for the Federal Fisheries Agency.

"The goal is to break the ice which has formed over the past nine years when not a single permit was issued for exports of the black caviar from Russia," said Savelyev.

Fearing extinction of sturgeon prized for its caviar eggs Russia had banned exports of black caviar in 2002. The move however had encouraged poaching as well as illegal exports to Europe through Turkey and the Causasus.

"An attentive European wouldn't understand this news," Savelyev said.

"He is used to seeing cans of Russian caviar. They didn't disappear anywhere. That was illegal import from Russia."

Savelyev said he foresaw caviar export growth in the future. Several fish farms already operate in the Kaluga, Rostov, Astrakhan, and Novosibirsk regions.

"We expect a lot of farmed caviar in a year or two," he told AFP, adding Russia could produce up to 200 tonness of caviar a year for a 350-tonne market.

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