Agriculture is one of the most lucrative businesses to venture into today. A lot of people are moving into farming and cashing out on a steady basis either through crop farming or animal husbandry.
Snail farming is a line of farming business that also brings good solid income when done properly. I know I said ‘good and solid’ together- I just want you to understand that it is an activity worth venturing into if you like “ego”. I personally love snail farming because you can actually breed it in your backyard without any offensive smell to disturb the neighbors.
This article navigates through all the questions you have in mind about snail farming. Without wasting time, let’s dissect snail farming!
What is Snail Farming (Heliculture)
Heliculture is the breeding, raising, and production of edible land snails for their meat, eggs, shell, and slimes.
The market opportunity for snail farming is underrated in Africa as a whole, Giant African Snails are part of African Culinary Traditions. They are not always available all year round. Hotels, fast foods are constantly in need of snails.
In Nigeria, snails are very expensive. The least price you could get in the market is N500. The annual demand for snails has risen to 7.5million naira. The USA also imports snails worth over 4 million US Dollars.
For years now, snails have been handpicked in bushes and farms for commercial purposes, but judging by the market survey, the demand for snails is greater than the supply.
Starting a snail farm is the only way to increase the supply of snails in both the local market and international market.
Biggest Snail Farm in Nigeria
The biggest Snail farm in Nigeria is owned by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State. It was recently inaugurated as ‘Egbeja Snail Village’ and it’s worth millions.
How Much Do Snail Farmers Earn in Nigeria?
Snail farming in Nigeria is very lucrative. Farmers can start the business with as little as N50,000 or N60,000 depending on how big you want your farm to be and earn as much as N5,000,000 annually.
Steps to Starting a Snail Farm in Nigeria
- Choice of Species
You will have to use a single species of snail for your farm, species such as Achatina achatina are preferable for a warm-climate region like Nigeria.
- Set Up Spacious Farmland for Housing
While constructing your pen, it is important to make it spacious for the snails. Overcrowding can limit their overall growth and development. Snails are good at escaping from confinement, so escape-proof housing should be constructed with soil. Depth of 11 inches with trees around.
- Purchase Healthy Snails
After constructing an escape-proof snailery, it is essential to purchase healthy hatchlings for your pens or healthy snails that will lay eggs and populate your farm.
- Feeding and Rearing of Snails
Snails are vegetarians; they eat varieties of food ranging from pawpaw leaves, cassava leaves, overripe pawpaw, Banana, Tomato, and lettuce.
Snails are hermaphrodites, they fertilize each other. To ensure the ‘egg-laying process’ continues effectively, high-quality soil rich in calcium is to be used.
- Harvesting and selling of the snails
Snails are to be harvested after maturity. It isn’t advisable to harvest all the snails at once. it is important to keep a few for breeding purposes.
The demand for snails is high. You could choose to sell it in the local market or export it.
- Suitable Environment / Soil for Snail Farming in Nigeria
Snails naturally lose large quantities of water daily. This process is called dehydration. An increase in wind rate also causes moisture loss in snails.
To prevent this, your snailery should be placed in an environment covered with trees to break the pressure of the wind.
Sandy-Loamy soil is suitable soil for snail farming. It is rich in calcium and it isn’t water-logged. Snails will thrive very well on this soil.
Avoid the use of clayey soil as it is acidic and water-logged.
Cost of Starting a Snail Farm
You can start your snail farm with as low as N70,000 depending on how large or small you want it to be. The capital covers; housing, buying equipment like watering cans, hand trowel, rake, shovel, weighing scale (digital preferably), buckets, feeders, pipe tank for water, or hose, buying fresh snails, feeding, handling, and processing the snails, marketing and transportation.
Feeding is the only expense that isn’t capital demanding. Feeds for snails could be formulated locally. Feeds like banana, overripe pawpaw, Lettuce. Formulas like wheat offal, bone meal, and ground maize could also be fed to them.
Management of Snail Farming
Management routine of snail farming Include:
• Do not let visitors enter your farm frequently.
• Special scrutiny should be done on every material or tool before it’s used in the snail farm.
• Avoid the use of dangerous chemicals like alum. It can destroy your snails completely.
• The snails should be protected by adequate shade.
• Avoid poultry droppings in your snail farm, it contains acid and salt.
• Hatchlings of snails need a humid environment to grow.
• Regular sanitation should be done frequently.
• Water and feed should be administered in shallow containers. This lowers the risk of the snails drowning.
• The Snailery should be secured properly to prevent the invasion of soldier ants and termites.
How Long Does it Take for a Snail to Grow to Full Size?
It depends on the specie and rearing conditions. Your species have to be big, even huge. They should grow to about 25-30 cm in length. Such size can usually be achieved in about 8 months to 1 year sometimes it can take even longer than this. The bigger the snail, the higher the market value.
How To Harvest Snails
•Harvesting snails is done by handpicking. It is most difficult because they may be hiding.
•Harvesting is easily done after rainfall or dew. By then, the plants are wet and the snails are moving about eating.
•You could also place their favorite feed so that they will all troop out of their hiding spot to feed then you pick the matured ones up.
•Since snails are delicate creatures, harvesting should be done carefully. The snails should be put in a sack or basket. Do not overpopulate them in a single basket or container, you might hurt them.
How Much is 1kg of Snail in Nigeria
The prices vary depending on the location and species. But a jumbo size Achatina Marginata goes for ₦1,000 in the local market, Breeder Snails goes for ₦800, Table sized Snails goes for ₦600, jumbo Snails goes for ₦1,500 while extra Large Snails goes for ₦1,600. These prices may differ depending on your location.
Advantages of Snail Farming in Nigeria
- Snail shells serve as calcium used for animal feeds
- Snail shells are rich in calcium. It is used to formulate animal feeds.
- Snail farming isn’t capital demanding but you are sure to earn huge profits.
- It requires little land and space.
- Snail feeds are cheap and are easily made from available raw materials.
- Snail farming is easy to run.
- Snail farming doesn’t pollute the immediate environment like poultry and other farm animals.
- The tender meat is rich in protein and low in cholesterol and fat.
- It doesn’t require excessive manpower and it’s not time-consuming.
- It is a good source of income.
- Snails are naturally harmless.
- Snails are highly productive as they can lay up to 300 eggs in a year.
- Snails aren’t vulnerable to infections, thus having a low mortality rate.
Problems/ Disadvantages of Snail Farming in Nigeria
Fear of predators has been a huge challenge in the farm animal business. Predators like green snails, snakes, wild ants can attack your snails and they won’t be able to defend themselves.
Some of the symptoms of diseases noticeable in an infected snail are fragile shell, Inactivity in the snail, excessive secretion of serum (oedema), reduced or no tentacles, inability to reproduce, impaired opercula, loss of color in new shell etc.
- Light Intensity
Snails do not need sunlight, most times they hide away from it. It is very difficult to rear snails in regions with high sunlight.
- Man’s Activities
Activities such as bush burning and deforestation expose snails to harsh weather conditions, and their eggs to sunlight; thus increasing the mortality rate in snails.
Since Snails need a humid climate to thrive well, it is restricted to humid tropical forest zones which offer constant temperature, high relative humidity, preferably no dry season.
- Cultural / Religious Restrictions
Most tribes based on their cultural or religious beliefs may view snails as a taboo. Establishing a commercial snail farm in such areas will only result in loss.
Snails are low growing animals that take at most a year to develop to maturity. Unlike other farm animals, it isn’t an avenue to make quick money.
- Snails as Pest
Most times snails might escape the pen or get abandoned by farmers because of low demand. They move into vegetation and become serious enemies to farmers as they end up destroying vegetables and other plants.
Untapped Opportunities in Snail Farming
Snail farming is seriously underrated in Nigeria. Everyone wishes to venture into poultry, goat rearing, and others.
Heliculture can make one a millionaire as there are various means of making money.
“Snail slime (the drawing liquid produced by snails) is used by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries in the treatment of skin diseases. And pharmaceuticals spend millions in purchasing the slime from snail farmers.
Snail farming meets a lot of needs in the market, from meat production to skincare and pharmaceutical needs, etc.