The demand for snail surely outstrips its supply in most countries in West Africa and there is indeed a booming international market for it in Europe and North America.
For instance, in France, the annual requirement is about five million kilogrammes and over 60 percent of that is imported.
The estimated annual consumption in Italy is 306 million snails.
In West Africa, snail meat has traditionally been a major ingredient of the diet of people living in the high forest belt like Cote d’Ivoire, which eats 7.9 million kg annually.
In spite of the considerable external and local demand, commercial snail farms such as those in Europe, South-East Asia and the Americas do not exist in West Africa.
In Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, where snail meat is particularly popular, snails are gathered from the forest.
In recent times, some Ghanaians and Nigerians have started venturing into snail farming, but efforts still need to be intensified towards satisfying the local market and subsequently getting a share of the foreign market.
According to Chuku, snail business is very lucrative if properly done.
To properly nurture snail, there is a need to know some of its characteristics, he stated.
To achieve this, better awareness is needed in that line of agriculture which has the capacity of providing jobs through self-empowerment to the teeming population of unemployed persons in the two countries.
Apart from the fact that snail is widely consumed in Ghana and Nigeria such that the output of the few farmers rearing it do not satisfy the demand of consumers,
there is also a huge international market for it waiting to be tapped.
Jake Chuku, a Ghana-based Nigerian farmer had this to say about the business viability of snail farming:
“Snail is widely consumed yet people have not considered the viability of going into it for commercial purposes.
Very few persons who have ventured into the business have been able to achieve little because of their crude approach which is not businesslike.”
Snails eat only at night and reproduce only during rainy season; they have a life span of 10 years in their natural habitat.
They mature in their natural habitat from egg to maturity stage between five to eight months.
Chuku assured that when snails are kept in suitable conditions and fed well, the result is usually tremendous.
“When the farmer creates the appropriate conditions for the snails, put them in a dark and humid enclosure and feed them well, they would grow faster, bigger, live longer and also taste better,” he advised.
To start up a snail farm, it is advisable to get snails directly from the forest instead of buying from the market after they have been exposed to sunlight and have dehydrated.
This is because snails drink a lot of water, so are easily dehydrated and this stresses them out, while reducing their fertility.
Chuku said snail farming could be started without spending money.
The intending snail farmer could pick the snails from the bush with a very simple technique;
clear a little portion of land during rainy season and sprinkle spicy fruits like pineapple, pawpaw, plantain, banana etc
At about 5 clock in the evening, when you go back there about 7pm or 8pm, you will pick up snails.
Another way could be to pick up snail eggs littered in the market place where it is sold and check the fertility of the eggs.
The eggs are later put inside a container containing wet sand and covered with cocoyam leaf.
Between 21 to 28 days, the eggs would hatch into baby snails. You start feeding them and gradually you raise a snail farm.
The importance of snail rearing is that when reared at home, snails can be made available throughout the year without going to search for them in the forest, thus avoiding the hazards involved in snail-picking, such as snake-bites, Chuku noted.
Snails kept in captivity can be made to grow faster by giving them highly nutritious compound feed, and they also multiply faster because their predators and enemies are controlled.
Scarcity of snails during dry season makes them quite expensive during this time of year; therefore, the farmer can take the advantage of the increase in prices to make more profit. Source: Business Day