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Snails Production And Trade In France

Snails are consumed in various places of the world, but France is famous for this remarkable delicacy that leaves no one indifferent. Escargots à la Bourguignonne is the most common recipe, where gastropods are cooked in garlic butter and served in their shells as an appetizer. But how, and where are produced all the snails consumed in France?

Snails farms in France

149 farms produce Escargots in France as of 2018. Farms can take various forms, from agricultural colleges to bigger, industrial farmhouses. However the French administration discern 2 types of farms in France. First the European Union (EU) compliant farms [1], then the ones with an exemption from EU laws [2]. Fortunately, no farm is exempted of sanitary controls, but EU compliance is mandatory to export the production to Europe.

Snail farming is a difficult business as the small animals are very sensitive to environment changes. Humidity and heat are the most important factors, and drought or cold can ruin a farm quickly. Softness of the French climate becomes here an advantage for snails farming. Farms can be found all over the metropolitan territory as seen on figure 1.

Figure 1: Snails farms in France. Source: Ministère de l’agriculture et de l’alimentation

Annual production of snails

The French Ministère de l’Agriculture publishes annual half-finished snails tons. This number is rather inaccurate as it includes the weights of side juices and packaging. However, the half-finished production seems to decrease since 2005. With a production of 956 tons in 2010, farms produce an average of 5 tons of half-finished product yearly.

Figure 2: Snails farms in France. Source: Ministère de l’agriculture et de l’alimentation

Snails imports & exports in France

Production in France does not satisfy the voracious appetite of French consumers who mostly rely on imports. Imports peak just before the end of the year as seen on Figure 3. Escargots remains a traditional festive dish, largely consumed during Christmas. Regarding exports, they stay low and mostly go to usual France partners like Germany, Italy or Spain.

Figure 3: French snails trading flows. Source: Datadouane

Foreign producers declared over 6000 tons of snails to the French customs from May 2013 to March 2014. Greece and Turkey provide the most of French imports, before Belgium and eastern European countries. In these Mediterranean states, farmers continuously irrigate fields with fogging systems to avoid drought. With this, snails can even be found in Cyprus [3].

Figure 4: Origin of French snails imports. Source: Datadouane

Figure 4: Origin of French snails imports. Source: Datadouane

If you have already eaten Escargots in France, chances are you did not eat French ones. Unfortunately, because snails are not considered as meat, restaurants have no requirement to clearly display origins of their snails. Moreover, no label in France [4] guarantees the origin of snails, which would probably help local production. A public notice already brought the subject [5] to the attention of the French parliament.

References

[2] Liste des établissements disposant d’une dérogation à l’agrément communautaire Escargot, (2018). https://www.data.gouv.fr/fr/datasets/liste-des-etablissements-disposant-d-une-derogation-a-l-agrement-communautaire-escargot-exe-30379290/.

[3] Fereikos: the success story of the “Snail queens”, (2013). http://www.cypriotandproud.com/2013/02/04/fereikos-the-success-story-queens/.

[5] Question écrite N°20692 de M. Jean-Pierre Decool, (2013). http://questions.assemblee-nationale.fr/q14/14-20692QE.htm.