If you are looking for an agribusiness to invest in and one that is highly profitable, in which you do not have to lose sleep over how to get working capital, your best bet might be snail farming. It can create jobs for the unemployed, underemployed, retired or serve as a means of extra income for anyone who dares to try it.
Snail farming, also called heliciculture or heliculture, is all about raising land snails for human consumption.
The consumption of snail meat is increasingly becoming popular among folks because of its nutritional and medicinal properties.
There are three main types of snails, the giant type called Archachantina, or another called Achatina Achatina, and the smaller ones. Apart from consumption, cultivating snails can give one a financial breakthrough.
Snails can be sourced from the bush as is done in most villages. In this case, all you need to do is go to the bush, spread baits such as decaying pineapple, pawpaw, banana leaves etc. At night, the snails would swoop on them to feed. Early in the morning, you go back to the bush to collect the snails. It will amaze you how many you would harvest.
Alternatively, you could go to their natural habitats such as the base of banana or plantain clusters to pick them. You could also go to the market to buy good species, especially the big ones. Similarly, you could go to an established farm to buy domesticated snails.
Unlike other livestock, snail rearing requires low capital, low labour and cheap food. Snails can go without food or water for up to six months.
You can earn foreign exchange from exporting snails. The risk rate is very low as well. It is a simple but very lucrative business any serious person can do.
Pen For Snails
You can construct the pen in several ways. You can construct a pen with wood and wire mesh or an enclosure built with blocks, galvanised steel sheets or fibre-cement sheets at your backyard, covered with nets or wire gauze to ward off predators.
You can construct cages or boxes for the pen. Plastic pots or flowerpots of about three inches deep filled with loamy soil can also do.
Some even use tyres to construct the pen. In this case you collect about four or five lorry tyres. Place one on top of the other to form a cylinder and on the last one place a net covering as a lid.
The spaces in the tyres will provide hiding places for the snails during the day when the weather is hot while the net will prevent them from escaping and protect them from pests.
If you want to do it on a large scale, you can use a plot of land or a half plot, as the case may be, to construct the pen for breeding.
The best soil for the pen is loamy soil that is not acidic or waterlogged. The soil should be at least two inches deep to enable the snails to lay eggs and keep them safe from ants, millipedes and other pests. Introduce earthworms to the soil to cleanse the soil.
Ensure that you plant plantains or bananas or small trees to protect the pen from the sun’s heat or from strong wind. Snails are very sensitive to light, vibration, noise or being touched by humans and other animals, so the pen should be built in a safe place.
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Irregular feeding and unclean environment would adversely affect them. Temperature of the place should also be considered because they prefer places that are cool and damp, as dryness impedes their growth. Water should always be handy for sprinkling to moist the pen when it gets dry.
Guard Against Predators
The farmer must secure the pen with wire mesh and nets to ward off predators and pests such as snakes, lizards, birds, frogs, rats, flies, millipedes, centipedes.
Construct a gutter round the pen and fill it with insecticides, kerosene or used engine oil to scare ants. Keep the pen always clean and build a hatchery for the small ones to save them from the big ones.
In all, it is advisable for the beginner to go for training or consult an expert before starting the business to avoid waste of money and energy.
Snails can be fed with kitchen and organic wastes. However, care should be taken to ensure that the feeds do not contain salt or harmful chemicals. The feeds must be fresh, wet and distributed all over the pen to give them freedom of choice of what to eat. Fresh water should be available all the time to create moisture in the pen.
Avoid tap water or water treated with chlorine.
Snails feed and grow well on vegetables and fruits such as green paw-paw fruits and leaves, cassava leaves, banana and plantain leaves, waterleaves and fruits such as mangoes, palm fruit, garden egg, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, pineapple, beans and so on. The food should be replaced daily to avoid spoilage and maintain sanitary environment.
A snail has both male and female reproductive system and so it is called a hermaphrodite. However, they still need each other’s company to reproduce.
One can start with as few as two breeding snails and they can give you up to 120 eggs in one year. You can then imagine how many eggs you would get if you start with 500 to 1,000 breeding stock.
Snails have universal consumption and so the demand for them is very high. They have a wide market because, as a food item, there are no social, religious or cultural barriers against it. Apart from that, snails are medicinal. They can be used to cure some ailments such as tuberculosis, whooping cough, hypertension and many others.
Snails can be sold in the open markets, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and fast food joints. Processed snails can also be stored by freezing and sold in nylons. However, before you produce, do a little research about location. This is important to ensure that you do not produce what cannot be sold.
Snails are also hot cakes in local markets. Twenty big snails in the local market can be sold for between N3,000 and N5,000. You can then imagine how much you can make if you invest from 20,000 and above. The profit is enormous.
There are also international markets for snails. They are hot delicacies mostly in Italy, France, Canada, USA, Germany, Britain, Japan, etc. For instance, it was estimated that in 1995 the United States imported snails worth over $4.5 million from 24 countries. Indonesia, Greece and China are the major exporters of snails to the U.S. They export live, fresh, chilled, or frozen snails worth $55,000 to 13 countries including Japan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. You can take advantage of this and earn dollars.
Processing and packaging of snails for export require special skills to meet international best practices; otherwise the consignment would be rejected at the point of entry and perhaps with a fine. This would lead to great financial loss.
The processing can take this method: Starve the snails for about 24 hours for their stomachs to be empty. Boil water to about 70 degrees centigrade; empty it into a basin and add a chemical known as alum.
Put the snails into the hot water and cover for about three minutes. Then throw away the dirty water and replace it with cool water. Remove each snail from each shell; then remove also the offal and rinse properly in cool water. This completes the process.
Snail Meat can be packaged by using cellophane to wrap it. This will protect it from moisture. This is then refrigerated for local market or for export. Alternatively, the snail meat can both be sun-dried or oven-dried and put in an airy box.
Live snails can also be packaged for export in a box, cellophane or basket and with good ventilation. For processing and packaging of snails, you are advised to go for training.
Go ahead and create jobs for yourself and your family. You will be happy you did.