Iran Ends State Monopoly on Caviar Exports
Iran has ended its state monopoly on the export of caviar in a bid to revive the sluggish industry, the director of the national fisheries industry said in Thursday's newspapers.
Khodakaram Jalali said "interested firms" would be supplied with sturgeon in a bid to encourage the private sector, as the price of caviar has skyrocketed some 70 percent in the past year.
He told the government-run Iran newspaper that the price had reached 680 dollars per kilogram (309 dollars per pound).
Iran's caviar industry has been under state control since the days of the former imperial regime, and the decision comes as President Mohammed Khatami bids to restart the economy by ending state control of key industries.
Iran's caviar production has fallen off dramatically in the past decade, from an annual 300 tons, to between 90 and 100 tons at present, 80 percent of which is exported.
Jalali said the drop in production was due largely to illegal fishing by other Caspian Sea nations, which he did not name. Environmental officials have also cited heavy pollution in the resource-rich Caspian.
Iran has expressed particular interest in exporting caviar to the United States after Washington ended an embargo on the delicacy, and other non-oil Iranian exports, in March.
Earlier this year, Iran released some 25 million-sturgeon fingerlings into the Caspian and outlawed fine-net fishing in a bid to boost stocks - TEHAN (AFP)
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