Ukraine’s snail farmers fear collapse over EU lockdowns

Workers at a snail farm sort snails for shipment abroad in Poltava. (AFP)
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Updated 27 July 2020

Ukraine’s snail farmers fear collapse over EU lockdowns

  • Many foreigners don’t even believe there are snail farms in Ukraine. When they find out, they want to know more and more

VOYNIVKA, Ukraine: When the first snail farm in Ukraine opened five years ago, local villagers couldn’t hide their curiosity.

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,” she laughed, surrounded by wooden boxes of snails in a green field under the blazing summer sun.

Ex-Soviet Ukraine’s budding snail industry now boasts some 400 farms which have found eager buyers in European countries like Italy and Spain.

But sweeping coronavirus restrictions that plunged the global food service industry into an unprecedented crisis have threatened to wipe out the fledgling farms in one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Most snail farmers in Ukraine — where the delicacy has yet to catch on — rely heavily on sales to restaurants in Europe where economies 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 countries have already cost Danileyko €55,000 ($63,748), he said, while snails meant for delivery are perishing in refrigerators.

Yuliya Nastasivna, director of Ravlykova Khata farm in the Zhytomyr region west of Kiev, has also struggled to shift stock.

She concedes that domestic sales will probably not make up for losses from Europe, since snails are too expensive for most Ukrainians and are still a culinary curiosity.

“If there is no export, then I’m afraid all farmers will collapse,” she says.

Nastasivna worries the outlook will be especially bleak if France and Spain go into lockdown again later in the year if there is a surge in infections.

“We must survive,” Koretska told AFP at the Voynivka farm. “We can’t give up all this.”

Before the pandemic, Ukraine’s snail industry was booming.

Producers last year delivered nearly 250 tons to Europe — up from just 93 in 2018 — according to data from Ukraine’s consumer watchdog.

A national association of producers said it expected farmers to yield 1,000 tons this year compared to 200-300 tons in 2019.

Ukraine’s snails are in such high demand because they are cheap and of good quality, says Nastasivna.

The exports include garden sails — which Nastasivna prefers and wild snails that she says “smell of soil.”

“Many foreigners don’t even believe there are snail farms in Ukraine. When they find out, they want to know more and more.”

The country’s main competitor, Poland, has the added advantage of being part of the EU, she said, and Ukrainian farmers are working to woo European clients by undercutting prices by around 10 percent.

Nvidia deal for Arm will drive computing power growth, says SoftBank’s CEO

Updated 23 October 2020

Nvidia deal for Arm will drive computing power growth, says SoftBank’s CEO

  • Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) is an anchor investor in the $100 billion Vision Fund

TOKYO/DUBAI: SoftBank Group Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son said on Thursday the sale of chip designer Arm to Nvidia Corp. will drive growth in computing power, in his first public comments since the $40 billion deal was announced in September.
Son made the comments at a virtual summit about artificial intelligence hosted by Saudi Arabia, an anchor investor in the $100 billion Vision Fund, at which he reiterated his belief that AI would transform society.
The Nvidia deal, part of a series of asset sales by Son, whose group has been shaken by soured investments and the COVID-19 pandemic, has raised concerns it will threaten Arm’s role as a neutral supplier in the industry.
Son is set to speak next week with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang at SoftBank World, the group’s annual event for customers and suppliers that is being retooled as it focuses on investing.
SoftBank’s growing cash pile is driving speculation about future investment plans, with the Vision Fund targeting external funding for a blank-check company, a source said, in a sign the group is regaining its mojo.
“I am a risk taker,” Son said on Thursday.
Rajeev Misra, CEO of SoftBank Investment Advisers which oversees the Vision Fund, said the market share gained by online commerce companies in the last six to eight months is more than what they gained in the previous four years put together.
“COVID has accelerated the acceleration of AI even further,” Misra told the same conference, adding in the 105 companies Vision Fund 1 and 2 have invested in, artificial intelligence is the core of their businesses.