Uruguay is the only country in the Southern Hemisphere that produces caviar.
Photo Credit: Orcearo | Dreamstime.com – Black Caviar Beads Photo
Uruguay and Russia are well distant countries but seem united by an unusual story. The wisdom of Russian experts that made the world’s best caviar got down to Uruguayan pioneers who took on a great adventure. Walter Alcalde and his family, from Durazno Uruguay are the founders of the company Black River Caviar.
The family used to be linked to ships catering back in the 60s, frequently attended the Russian fleet in Montevideo. They generated very good bonds that eventually gave way to informal conversations and good ideas. During these chats while drinking mate and vodka, the Russians mentioned a confidential study which marked Uruguay as one of the sites in the world, suitable for the production of the delicacy of the Caspian, the Caviar.
Alcalde treasured this information and started the challenge, back in 1989, to access as much information as possible and search for the very much needed technology for caviar production in Uruguay. Alcalde began a long journey of research, studies and knowledge, which took more than three years.
The beginnings, in 1993 were not easy. They looked for the best place to settle in Uruguay and found it in Baygorria in the north of Durazno just by the Rio Negro, (Black River) in Uruguay. There where a lake formed before the dam they found the “Holy Grail” for the caviar production in Uruguay.
The place is perfect, the lake´s area has the ideal conditions, there is little industry around and lots of nature. At this site, they started to build the first sturgeon farm of Uruguay and of Latin America.
After achieving a series of permits and authorizations, the family was able to import inseminated eggs from Russia. With them, the caviar history began in Uruguay.
Caviar from Uruguay for Export
Right from the middle in Uruguay, the best caviar in the world is produced and recognized internationally for its high quality standard. This luxury product born in the Baygorria Farm started to export in 2000 to Argentina and then to the United States.
In 2013, the Baygorria Farm expanded the production and reached more places positioning the Black River Caviar as a producer of excellent quality at the same levels as France and the Middle East.
The Uruguayan brand now reaches the most demanding markets and is present on luxury cruises in Europe, China, Brazil, India and even Russia.
In Dubai alone, 250 tonnes of caviar per year are consumed. Uruguay places between 7 and 8 tons per year. But Black River Caviar owners anticipate that one of the objectives is to produce between 10 and 12 tons, aim targeted for 2016.
95% of the production is sold worldwide under the brand Black River Caviar, which represents a very important positioning for the company and for Uruguay as producer of caviar and an innovative experience based on quality and excellence.
Uruguayan Caviar in Punta Del Este
The Uruguayan market consumes 150 kilos per year and considering the size of the country it is not a small number. Black River Caviar is highly requested in Punta Del Este and Jose Ignacio, in several luxury hotels and in all the Uruguayan Free Shops.
The Path to success in Breeding Sturgeon in Uruguay
At the Baygorria farm the sturgeon grows and develops in less time than in other countries favoured by the water conditions and weather. In the beginning, the Russian experts were the ones who advised on the family business. Professionals and technicians came to Uruguay and helped to build the sturgeon farm by the Rio Negro. Currently, there are technicians of various nationalities working full time on the Uruguayan Sturgeon project.
The Alcalde family has contributed a lot when it comes to knowledge of sturgeon in these lands and redesigned much of the knowledge, generating new knowledge such as learning how to identify in less time the males and females sturgeons. It usually takes two years to know this data. The Alcalde family has developed some techniques that allow getting this information beforehand, which is undoubtedly a very important competitive advantage.
Sturgeon Meat from Uruguay
This opened the possibility of an added product, the production of the male sturgeon for meat consumption keeping the females to produce caviar. The sturgeon is an ancient fish, its origins dates back to the Jurassic era, it has no scales and there is a huge demand for the sturgeon’s meat in the Uruguayan market and abroad.
Although it sounds incredible, Uruguay sells sturgeon meat to Russia. Quality and innovation is the recipe, betting on lessening the production times to seven years in Uruguay, compared to 12 to 15- in the world, which is one of the factors that makes it expensive.
The Process of the Sturgeon in Uruguay
In the Baygorria farm, the sturgeon grows and develops in less time than in other countries, favoured by the water conditions and climate. Fiberglass pools are the first stage. The plant uses 270 million cubic liters of water per day in a circuit that works by gravity. Water is taken from the lake and is returned downstream. Then the sturgeons spend some time submerged in the reservoir of the Rio Negro where they grow up to reach the suitable size. The processing plant has made greatest improvements focused on simplicity with basic procedures that are better than other more complex methods used in Russia. Since the mid 90’s, Uruguay has been breeding sturgeons under Black River Sturgeon and they have been produced for more than 20 years under strict control to delivering high-quality products in Uruguay.