At a sprawling complex on the site of a former Soviet collective farm in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, workers are harvesting a rare caviar.
Shooting out from behemoth beluga fish are glistening obsidian orbs that the firm Aquatir exports for hundreds of dollars around the world from the tiny pro-Russian enclave. The real value is in the company’s rare albino belugas, which are set next year to produce a gold-tinted white caviar tasted only by the wealthiest people on the planet.
“We got very lucky,” advertising manager Viorica Grimakovskaya tells AFP during a tour of the 30-acre (12-hectare) premises. Worth some $20,000 ($17,000 euros) per kilogram, according to Grimakovskaya, the white caviar is packaged in containers made of pure gold to match the roe’s colour and sold only at auction set a year in advance.
Aquatir, which was founded in 2006, 15 years after a brief civil war that saw Transnistria break away from Moldova in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, stumbled on some 20 of the albinos when purchasing their first stocks.
“They had just arrived into the world and we immediately brought them here,” Grimakovskaya recalls. “If we had waited just a little bit, they wouldn’t have been sold to us.” Grimakovskaya went onto say
The company was founded to take advantage of the newly lucrative business of farming the delicacy, after a 2005 ban on sales of wild beluga caviar from the Caspian and Black Seas. Aquatir is owned by Sheriff, a conglomerate with an economic and political monopoly on Transnistria, long described as a hotbed of smuggling and corruption.
The group also owns the FC Sheriff football club which shocked Shaktar Donetsk and former Champion’s League winners Real Madrid in its first two matches in this year’s Champions League and faces former champions Inter Milan later this month.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: RFI.FR
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