From Vietnam with love: local caviar aims to make a splash

Thanh Nien News
23 December 2014

At a sturgeon farm on a pristine lake near southern Dalat town, a worker hoists a large white fish out off the water. “It’s an albino,” says Vietnam’s eccentric ‘Caviar King’ Le Anh Duc adding triumphantly, “Gold eggs!”
Not only are the eggs from the rare sturgeon — Duc has just 40 albinos out of half a million fish — an off-white ‘gold’ color but they are also a money-spinner.
Albino caviar can sell for up to $100,000 per kilogram, compared to black Beluga caviar, a snip at just $5,000 to $10,000 a kilo according to industry figures.
Duc, a jovial Russian-educated businessman with a love of risky ventures, is a man with a mission: to get Made In Vietnam caviar onto dinner tables across the world at a reasonable price — starting with the country best known for its penchant for the salted fish-eggs.
“If we can sell our caviar to Russia — where really, they know about caviar — then people will understand this is a top quality product,” said the 36-year-old entrepreneur, who already has a slew of other projects, from real estate to sea planes, under his belt.
His company, Caviar de Duc, has already signed an agreement with a Russian importer to sell between two and four tons of caviar to Russia in 2015 — although some Vietnamese seafood producers are already warning the collapse of the Russian ruble could hit exports.
Long beloved of the rich and famous, caviar is an expensive, high-end delicacy, but one now in crisis — wild caviar production has fallen from a high of some 3,000 tons per year in the 1970s to almost zero.
Rampant over-fishing and pollution in caviar’s birthplace, the Caspian Sea, mean the wild beluga sturgeon is now critically endangered.