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Business is slow.

The devastated plants on Hugo Sanchez's farm are the best sign he is doing well. The 41-year-old Peruvian entrepreneur cares little for the wilted sweet potatoes. It's the agent of their destruction--helix aspersa, better known as the garden snail and considered a delicacy abroad--that's got him interested. There are a million snails on his half-a-hectare farm in suburban Lima. He has built a rudimentary sprinkler system to provide moisture and a mesh roof to keep the birds at bay. "For us, simple is best, and it is working well" says Sanchez, who is one of a dozen snail farmers who have emerged in Peru since the mid-1990s. According to the Peruvian customs agency, more than 33 metric tons of live snails were exported last year, a figure that has tripled in six years. Currently, Peru exports only live snails. A kilogram of live snails--about 150--will sell for US$4.50, but a dozen snails packed in salt water will bring in $12. To preserve snails, however, Peruvian growers will need more space, says Cesar Morales, a snail rancher who started an association for the industry, Escargot Peril. Peru's biggest farms cover 10,000 square meters; preserved snails require farms several hectares in size. "It will be difficult for one business to do it on that scale without help," Morales says. Yet it could prove to be lucrative. Currently, China largely feeds the $50 million U.S. snail market. Since the United States imports largely preserved snails, Peruvian farmers must make the switch. "We hope to have the first farms started in a year-and-a-half and have them exporting within six years," says Morales.
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Title Annotation:RADAR
Author:Schexnayder, C.J.
Publication:Latin Trade
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:3PERU
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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Next Article:Hidden geography.

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