Malaysian fish farm aims to dip into $1.64bn global caviar market

1 / 4
A Malaysian fish farming business is hoping to dip into the multibillion-dollar global market for caviar after accidentally stumbling into producing the gourmet delicacy. (Photo: Supplied)
2 / 4
A Malaysian fish farming business is hoping to dip into the multibillion-dollar global market for caviar after accidentally stumbling into producing the gourmet delicacy. (Photo: Supplied)
3 / 4
A Malaysian fish farming business is hoping to dip into the multibillion-dollar global market for caviar after accidentally stumbling into producing the gourmet delicacy. (Photo: Supplied)
4 / 4
A Malaysian fish farming business is hoping to dip into the multibillion-dollar global market for caviar after accidentally stumbling into producing the gourmet delicacy. (Photo: Supplied)
Updated 15 September 2019

Malaysian fish farm aims to dip into $1.64bn global caviar market

  • Owners of luxury T’lur Caviar brand ‘accidentally’ stumbled upon prized delicacy
  • alaysia does not have a proper winter, sturgeon can be harvested there 50 percent faster than globally

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian fish farming business is hoping to dip into the multibillion-dollar global market for caviar after accidentally stumbling into producing the gourmet delicacy.

When Taiwanese entrepreneur Chien Wei Ho, one of the owners of the T’lur Caviar brand, first started harvesting sturgeon in Malaysia, he never expected to end up in the lucrative caviar trade.

Wei Ho and his group of Malaysian sturgeon farmers were based in a country not best-suited for harvesting caviar, mainly due to a lack of technological support and unfavorable weather conditions.

It was only after 10 years of sturgeon farming that the business partners “accidentally” discovered the “gold mine” after one of the fish had to be euthanized. When they cut it open, its egg sack was full of caviar.

“He (Wei Ho) was taken aback. For many years he had been told the fish could not have caviars,” Shaun Kenneth Simon, T’lur’s chief marketing officer told Arab News.

A company director came up with the idea to “market the caviars instead of just selling fish,” and before long they were swimming against the tide cultivating the prized delicacy for Malaysian clients.

“What we are doing here is very different from other countries. We discovered the caviars by chance,” said Simon.

He said that 12 years ago, Wei Ho – who also owns several resorts in Taiwan – was cultivating fish and flower farms and was well-known for growing beautiful orchids. “Rearing sturgeon was just a hobby for him.”

However, when a typhoon struck Taiwan and destroyed all his farms, Wei Ho decided to look for a safer place to operate from.

“Through his friends, he came to Tanjung Malim, in Perak, where he decided to dabble in the sturgeon farm business in Malaysia,” Simon said.

Malaysia was the obvious choice, he added, especially since it was rarely impacted by natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes.

Nevertheless, big challenges were in store for Wei Ho. Experts, including a German aquaculture specialist, warned that the fish would probably not live past three years old, let alone lay eggs.

“Malaysia has a warm tropical climate and without any expensive, climate-controlled machinery to keep the water cool, many advised Wei Ho that the fish would not survive,” Simon added.

To overcome the hurdle, Wei Ho used local aquaculture techniques to acclimatize the sturgeon to Malaysia’s climate. “Basically, we taught the fish how to survive in Malaysia’s temperature.”

The process worked, but Wei Ho had only planned to rear and sell the fish, not harvest caviar.

Sturgeon have a lucrative market potential because they are high in collagen and rich in omega oils. Because Malaysia does not have a proper winter, sturgeon can be harvested there 50 percent faster than anywhere else in the world.

Seven species are reared on the farm, but the ones used for caviar are Siberian and Amur.

The brand name T’lur also came about by chance. “Because international brands have cool names, we thought ‘why not call it telur?’ which means eggs in Malay language. And because we were all Malaysians, we put an apostrophe in the word to make it sound French,” Simon said.

Currently, T’lur caviar is marketed only in Malaysia despite growing demand from neighboring countries, but the company is planning to go global. Most of its customers are chefs from fine-dining city restaurants.

“We are bringing something new to Malaysia, which is not really known for producing luxury products. We are learning to refine this further to bring it to a higher standard,” he added.

Caviar is a high-end luxury delicacy that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per kilogram. One of the most expensive in the luxury market is beluga caviar, mainly found in the world’s largest salt-water lake, the Caspian Sea.

With an insatiable appetite for fish eggs from several countries around the world, the market for the product is expected to be worth $1.64 billion (SR6.11 billion) by 2025, according to a survey conducted by Adroit Market Research.

The study revealed that greater access to international cuisine, along with stronger purchasing powers, had seen demand soar.


Can Muslims swing UK vote?

Updated 07 December 2019

Can Muslims swing UK vote?

  • They may be a minority, but British Muslim voters could have a major impact at the ballot box, a new report suggests
  • The Muslim Council of Britain has identified 18 constituencies in which Muslim voters could have a high impact

LONDON: With Islamophobia on the rise in the UK, and uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its implications, British Muslims could have a significant impact on the result of the Dec. 9 general election simply by exercising their right to vote.

Despite the UK’s Muslim population standing at 5 percent, there are 31 marginal seats in which Muslim voters could have a “high” or “medium” impact, according to a list published by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

The council has identified 18 constituencies in which Muslim voters may have a high impact, and 13 in which they could have a medium impact.

Top of the list for high-impact areas are Kensington, Dudley North and Richmond Park.

High-impact seats are those where the current margin of victory is small and the proportion of Muslim voters is significant compared to the margin of victory.

In Kensington, Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad won her seat in 2017 by a margin of 20 votes.

The number of Muslims of voting age in this constituency, estimated at 5,431, is 272 times this margin.

A British Muslim woman leaves a polling station after voting in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, UK, in a previous election. (Shutterstock)

In Dudley North and Richmond Park, the Muslim electorate — which stands at 4 percent of voting-age constituents — was over 70 times the victory margin in both constituencies, which was 22 and 45 votes, respectively. Muslims are, therefore, in a position to make a difference in high-impact seats such as these.

The MCB is the UK’s largest and most diverse Muslim umbrella organization, with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organizations, mosques, charities and schools.

It does not endorse any political party or prospective parliamentary candidate.

Ahead of the last general election, the MCB identified 16 high- and 23 medium-impact seats where it thought Muslims could make a difference.

“Where we highlighted that these seats had the potential for Muslims to have a huge impact if they voted a particular way, we did see that actually come to fruition,” the MCB’s Public Affairs Manager Zainab Gulamali said.

In the 16 constituencies where the MCB thought Muslims could have a high impact, every one of these seats went on to be held by the Labour Party.

Eleven of these were previously Labour seats, but it increased its majority, and five were previously Conservative seats.

Of the 23 medium-impact constituencies, 16 seats in which Labour was the incumbent saw an increase in its majority, with the exception of Bolton North East.

Of the seven previously Conservative seats, five were retained with a smaller majority, one seat was gained by the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservatives increased their majority in the final seat.

The MCB’s election policy platform report said Muslims “do not all affiliate with one particular political party. Muslims vote for different reasons like all voters.”

It added that the British government’s own analysis confirms that “minorities are not a bloc vote that automatically supports Labour irrespective of Labour’s performance.”

Gulamali said: “This election is going to be a really interesting one for Muslims and non-Muslims, and the fact that the UK is going through unprecedented change means that it’s important for everyone to get out and vote.”

She added: “The choices that people will make in this election will be really crucial. We know that Muslims choose to vote for whoever they vote for based on a number of concerns, especially as Islamophobia is so prevalent in particular political parties.

“We think that would be something that many Muslims consider when casting their vote.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently apologized for the “hurt and offence” caused by instances of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

He said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” in his party would begin by Christmas.

Former party Chairwoman Baroness Warsi — the first Muslim woman to be part of a British Cabinet, who has been calling for an inquiry into Islamophobia within the party — said the apology was “a good start.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologized for the ‘hurt and offence’ caused by instances of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.  (AFP)

Johnson’s apology came as Flora Scarabello, who was running as the Conservative candidate for Glasgow Central, was suspended by the party over “alleged use of anti-Muslim language.”

A party spokesman said: “There is no place in the Scottish Conservatives for anti-Muslim language, or any other form of racial or religious discrimination.”

Johnson has remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women. Writing in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, he said Muslim women wearing the niqab “look like letter boxes” or bank robbers.

The MCB report said there “has been a disturbing and dangerous rise in Islamophobic incidents and support of anti-Muslim sentiments within political parties,” and urged them to investigate “issues of Islamophobia within their parties.”

Gulamali said: “Before the general election, we surveyed over 500 of our affiliates and other British Muslims, and we found that tackling Islamophobia was a No. 1 priority the Muslims that we spoke to had for political parties.”

But “Muslims don’t just care about Islamophobia and Muslim issues. They also care about all the other issues that everyone else cares about,” she added.

These include Brexit. A recent MCB survey of its affiliates and wider Muslim communities found that 77 percent of participants back remaining in the EU. The same percentage of participants support a second referendum on Brexit.

“Muslims are overwhelmingly poorer than mainstream society — 46 percent of the Muslim population resides in the 10 percent most deprived local authority districts in England,” Gulamali said.

“We know that Brexit is likely to hit people in low socioeconomic groups more than people who are well off. So Muslims will be disadvantaged by Brexit in that way.”

Muslim voters also care about issues such as the privatization of the National Health Service, tackling knife crime, unemployment and the cost of living.

Boris Johnson's apology was described as ‘a good start’ by Baroness Warsi, right, the party’s former chairwoman. (AFP)

The MCB held its first national Muslim voter registration day on Nov. 22, when it encouraged political participation among Muslims, 300,000 of whom registered to vote that day.

The East London Mosque’s London’s Muslim Centre took part in the MCB’s voter registration drive.

Dilowar Khan, its director, said by taking part in the initiative, “we hope to have played our part in increasing awareness for our congregants of their democratic right to vote and cause change.”

He added: “Overall, we hope this increased political participation by the Muslim community will help steer our country toward a better society.”

Khan said: “It’s only through engagement that we can identify and voice key issues affecting Muslim communities.”

He added: “It’s important that everyone realizes their potential to cause change via political participation.

“Muslims make up a significant minority in the UK, and it’s of utmost importance that our concerns are validated and that our politicians address these issues,” Khan said.