When the first snail farm in Ukraine initiated five years ago, local villagers couldn’t hide their curiosity about this business.
Residents of Voynivka south of the capital Kiev would peek over the fence of the old dairy farm where manager Yulia Koretska kept the snails to ask if people really ate them.
“They called me the snail mother,” Koretska laughed, enclosed by wooden boxes of snails in a green field under the blazing summer sun.
Ukraine’s budding snail industry now claims around 400 farms that have found eager buyers in European nations like Italy and Spain.
But sweeping coronavirus restrictions that plunged the global foodservice industry into an unprecedented crisis have threatened to wipe out the fledgling farms in one of Europe’s poorest countries.
Most snail producers in Ukraine, where the delicacy has yet to catch on rely heavily on sales to restaurants in Europe where marketplaces are still struggling to recover to pre-pandemic levels after months-long lockdowns.
“Last year everything was great. This year is the exact opposite,” says Sergiy Danileyko who owns the Ravlik-2016 farm in Voynivka and runs a warehouse in Spain.
Lost orders from European Union nations have now cost Danileyko 55,000 euros ($63,748), he stated, while snails intended for delivery are perishing in refrigerators.