THE OLD saying one man’s trash is another man’s treasure has been borne out in a report on the humble snail.
For Aussie farmers and gardeners they are nothing more than a nuisance, but those getting the shovel out to squash a few in the garden bed after a rain may be amazed to learn just how big the dollars for the little shelled critters are.
The humble gastropod is a serious money spinner for snail producers, with strong demand for the delicacy across the globe, in particular in the western Mediterranean, through countries such as Spain, Portugal and France.
According to data from market research business IndexBox the global snail market weighs in at a whopping 43,000 tonnes, which equates to a value of $A202 million.
Surprisingly enough, it is not the French, who are so closely linked with snails in Australian imagination, who go through the most snail meat a year.
That honour goes to Spain, which eats 16,500 tonnes of ‘caracols’ each year, followed by Morocco, 6,000 tonnes then France with 5,300 tonnes.
So beloved are snails in Spain’s Catalonia region that there is a festival in a western Catalan town, Lleida, dedicated to the gastropod, with 12 tonnes of the creatures eaten over the course of the weekend’s festivities.
The western Mediterranean region, containing all the above nations, forms the heartland of snail gastronomy, accounting for 69 per cent of global snail consumption.
It is in Morocco where people are increasingly going crazy for snails, with a 21pc increase in consumption from 2007 to 2016.
Interestingly, the snails used in cookery vary little from the garden variety that is the scourge of home vegetable growers across Australia.
If purged correctly to rid of the threat of chemical contamination, snails could be picked off the cabbage plants in the back garden and then cooked up in the traditional butter, garlic and parsley sauce.
The French and Spanish traditionally forage for snails in much the same way as Australians go looking for wild mushrooms, however due to food safety concerns, foraging for snails has never taken off in Australia.
The smaller conical snail that wreaks havoc on crops in areas such as South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula is too small to be particularly prized as an edible species.
In spite of the ease we have in growing them in Australia when we don’t want them, the snail industry is yet to really take off here.
There are commercial snail farms in Australia, but as yet it is very much a niche market until further consumer demand emerges.
But snail farmers may also soon have access to other markets as well.
IndexBox reported the popularity of using snails in cosmetics is growing at a rapid pace.
Given the western world’s push towards sustainable food sources and the opportunities in cosmetics, IndexBox expected the worldwide snail industry to continue to grow.
In terms of the world’s leaders in snail exports, Morocco, Indonesia and Romania lead the way at present.
The full IndexBox report can be read here: