ECONOMY

Slow-moving livestock offers rapid development

Its turnover has increased by 622 percent in the last three years alone, while its network of affiliated producers has grown from 20 in 2008 to 155 in 2011: Fereikos-Helix, a snail farming and export company owned by Panayiota and Maria Vlachou, proves that innovation, extroversion and primary production are the right ingredients to succeed in the business.

At the same time, the Corinth-based firm is breathing new life into the local agricultural economy.

Meanwhile, it turns out that humble snails are not to be sniffed at investment-wise, as their value, according to Maria Vlachou, has been steadily rising since 1972, and their price goes up by 2 to 3 percent every year on average.

Paris is the principal market for fresh and dry snails. Snails are exploited in various sectors, ranging from the beauty industry to reconstructive cosmetic treatments, while also continuing to be enjoyed as a culinary delicacy. About 75 percent of snail production ends up in the pharmaceutical industry, with the remaining 25 percent making its way to the dining table.

The reason why snails are so significant in the beauty and pharmaceutical sectors has to do with the unique qualities of their saliva, which has pain-relieving properties.

Meanwhile, the two Greek businesswomen are currently selling snails at 3.80 euros per kilo, a fixed price for the current year, while business is guaranteed thanks to a series of contracts with foreign companies.

According to market estimates, Greek snail exports are expected to reach $12.251 million in 2011. The bulk of exports travel to France, followed by Italy and Switzerland. It is estimated that so far this year, the value of shipments to France, Italy and Switzerland has exceeded 10 million euros.

Up until a few years ago, the only way to get hold of edible snails was to go out and collect them yourself. However, contemporary lifestyles mean that?s not always easy, and in recent years there has been a growing demand from consumers seeking to prepare traditional recipes using snails.

Following years of extensive research and experiments, the breeding of Fereikos-Helix snails takes place in open-air farms, allowing them to complete their full natural biological cycle, and is rapidly developing. This method guarantees the supply of snails throughout the year.

Fereikos-Helix was established in 2007. The company?s name stems from the ancient Greek word ?fereikos,? which derives from the words ?fero? (to carry) and ?oikos? (household), which literary translated means ?carrying one?s own house,? and ?helix? (spiral).