Page last updated at 07:50 GMT, Sunday, 6 July 2008 08:50 UK

French to shell out over snails

By Hugh Schofield
BBC News, Paris

Loire Valley snails
Only about 1% of snails processed in France are French

Producers warn the price of snails - one of France's more exotic foodstuffs - is about to soar, because of economic development in eastern Europe.

France consumes more than 14,000 tonnes of snails every year but practically none of them are actually French.

With the most prized species now under protection, the industry relies on central and east European imports.

But economic progress in countries like Poland and Bulgaria means less appetite for the hard work of snail-gathering.

Until now, every year rural families there could earn a decent wage from collecting the animals in the fields and woods.

So the companies which buy the snails are putting up their salaries in order to keep their employees, which means they are going to have to put up their prices in order to stay solvent.

With only a few snail farms still active in France itself, mainly in the hills of Burgundy, the French Federation of Preserved Food Industries is warning that the days of cheap snails are over.

It is a lesson in global economics that lovers of Escargots a la bourguignonne are going to have to live with.

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