Caviar is one of the rarest and most precious delicacies. Though genuine Beluga caviar, or the “black pearl” as it is known, is produced by a single species of sturgeon that lives primarily in the Caspian Sea, the term is loosely applied to the fish roe of other kinds of sturgeon or even other fish such as the burbot.
Known for its distinctive dark color, Beluga caviar retails at $10 per gram in Western Europe and the United States. The price rose on the back of increased demand by some 70 percent between 2004 and 2005, and has continued to rise. The wholesale price of one kilogram of caviar rose from $1,400 last year to almost $2,300 this year.
Gourmet House, owned by Hamda Harizi, is a pioneer of caviar distribution in the UAE. Harizi won the country’s Best Retail Project Prize for 2006, a prize awarded to young Emirati investors in recognition of their entrepreneurial achievement. Last year, Gourmet House distributed three tons of caviar, a notable achievement given how restrictive the caviar business has become for ecological reasons.
In 2001, CITES, the convention on trade in endangered species, responding to high levels of poaching and illegal trade, called a halt to dealing in caviar from the Caspian Sea. The organization gave Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan, all of which border on the Caspian, a year to study stocks and begin to develop a management plan. Since then trade has resumed in fits and starts depending on CITES’ willingness to approve quotas and what the agreed amounts are. The convention grants Iran, which voluntarily joined the agreement, a relatively generous yearly quota, while the other Caspian Sea countries, including Russia, are more restricted. Overall, quotas are becoming smaller each year. Last year, Russia exported some 12 tons, one-sixth that of the 76-ton quota in 2002, resulting in intense competition between distribution companies for a share of the prize.
Gourmet House boasts the largest caviar packaging plant in the world. The plant was established in 2003 and cost $1 million to build. Harizi says the plant’s spare capacity is needed for future projects. She expects the global and regional caviar markets to grow in line with that of tourism and hotels, and sea and air travel. Hotels, airlines and cruise lines are big consumers.
Harizi imports from all over the world, from farms she owns outright or in part. A $9 million investment secured her a 30 percent share of a 250-square kilometer caviar farm in China. She intends to raise her share to 49 percent. This farm’s production is expected to reach 20 tons by 2010, putting it among the world’s largest.
Sturgeon farming may be feasible in the UAE, she said, and the possibility is being studied. By her calculation, a $12 million Dubai farm would be able to produce 3.5 tons a year. She said Gourmet House is considering spending $4 million to establish a farm at Rushd, Iran, on the Caspian.
“Theoretically, these farms can be built anywhere. The problem is technical: ensuring the proper atmosphere. You should provide for an artificial environment like that of the Caspian Sea, with all the costs and technical expertise this entails.”
The price of caviar remains high even though a growing percentage of the delicacy is harvested from artificially grown sturgeon. Harizi says such farms, which are expensive to build and equip, yield marketable caviar after only five or six years. Output is variable and unpredictable; yields fall in sub-optimum conditions.
Dubai is an ideal location for a caviar processing plant. The local market is large in its own right: tourism is healthy and growing, and there is a permanent population of immensely wealthy and sophisticated consumers. “Thanks to the proper business environment, I can export to all over the world,” says Harizi.
What of the competition? Harizi says, “I encourage every one of my [fellow] nationals. We can help each other.” She continues, “Sheikha Sebika, the wife of the King of Bahrain, honored me as an innovator. At the ceremony, people wanting to open their own caviar shops asked for my business card. I told them it is not an easy task. I invited them to watch me work with my employees on the farms, where I got all my experience.
“Those who want to emulate me should know that I have not felt any of my 32 years go by. The problem with those who seek to open business outlets is that they look for tradition; I advise them to look for what’s new.”
First seen at http://www.trendsmagazine.net
Entrepreneurship is the practice of starting new organizations or revitalizing mature organizations, particularly new businesses generally in response to identified opportunities. Entrepreneurship is often a difficult undertaking, as a vast majority of new businesses fail. Entrepreneurial activities are substantially different depending on the type of organization that is being started.
Dubai, Dec. 30th, 2007 (WAM) – Dr Mohammed Saeed Al Kindi, Minister of Environment & Water, today made an inspection tour of a national caviar processing factory, set up and financed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders (YBL). Hamda Harizi, Director of ‘Gourmet House’, briefed Al Kindi on the different stages of caviar processing and packaging in accordance with the highest industrial and environmental standards. Al Kindi praised YBL’s role in supporting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). He also lauded the factory’s strict compliance with international standards and treaties, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
تحيّة لروح الإبداع عند حمدة حريزي، ملكة الكافيار، كما تستحق أن يطلق عليها، لأنها تعمل على إنشاء مزارع للكافيار، وتتعامل مع الموضوع وكأنه مخطط هندسي يمكن حسابه بدقّة لا مغامرة فيه البتّة، ويحق لها ذلك، لسبب بسيط لا جدال فيه، هو أنّها تعرف عن الكافيار أكثر مما يعرفه أي من الآخرين !