Snail farming, heliculture, is a lucrative business venture that is still yet to be explored fully in Nigeria and Africa at large. It is a viable agricultural business especially for young entrepreneurs. Commercial snail farming in Nigeria and in Africa has a large market opportunity, but is greatly underrated. Although snails play a huge role in the diet of many African countries including Nigeria, they are not always available or affordable throughout the year.
Where to buy snails for farming in Nigeria
The largest species of snails used for commercial snail farming in Nigeria are Archachatina marginata, widely known as the giant African land snail, Achatina fulica and Achatina achatina.
The Archachatina marginata species is given that name because of how large they are in size. You do not need to stress over where to buy these snails as the mature ones for rearing can be bought from a local market or snail farm.
How to start a snail farming in Nigeria
The best time to begin a snail farming business in Nigeria especially for commercial use is during the rainy season. This is because snails in Nigeria go into hibernation during the dry season. When the rainy season comes the snails are back to eating, mating and reproducing. The most advised period to start snail farming in Nigeria is between July to October. The following are some steps to take when starting a snail farming business in Nigeria:
- The first step is to consider your location and decide on the species of snail you would like to sell. In Nigeria, the most common and largely known species as mentioned above, is the giant African land snail. The climate and humidity in Nigeria is what enables them to inhabit the region. You could also decide to sell Achatina achatina or Achatina fulica as they are also popular in the climate and can be easily found in bushes and swampy areas.
- Next, a snail pen or snailery, which is where the snails will reside, should be set up in such a way that there would not be overcrowding and the snails have free movement to prevent outbreak of diseases and delayed development. You should also ensure that the housing should be escape proof as snails are prone to escaping from where they are placed. Quality soil that is about ten inches in depth would be required for convenient laying of eggs by snails.
- Having done that, you then need to locate where to buy the species of snails you decided on. Ensure to buy quality matured snails that are healthy from your local market or snail farm. A matured snail is essential to lay eggs and populate your snail farm. You can tell if a snail is fully developed and healthy if there is a lip at the shell of the snail.
- Once you have your snails, you need to feed them. Snails eat vegetables that are high in calcium. Since their shell and eggs are primarily made from calcium, it plays a major role in the diet of snails. Some good sources of calcium in vegetables are leafy greens like cabbage, lettuce, okra leaves and so on. Another way to provide calcium for your snails asides in their food is by keeping a piece of limestone in the snail pen.
- Mating and laying of eggs are essential in snail farming. Snails can begin fertilising each other once fully mature as they are hermaphrodites. The eggs take about 2-4 weeks to hatch and about 1-2 years to fully develop.
- After your snails have had time to mature, you can then harvest and sell them. It is advised to not harvest and sell all your matured snails as they are important for breeding. With snails having a good market demand and good price, they can be sold easily and quickly at your local market. You can also choose to export since there is an increase in the consumption rate of snails across the world.
A snail farm can begin anywhere. You can have one in your backyard, easily accessible to you, or you can acquire a piece of property to begin your snail farming business. This of course depends on if you would like to have your snail farming business on a small or large scale.
How to rear snails in Nigeria
Snails begin to fertilize and lay eggs as soon as they are fully developed.
Snails lay between thirty to a hundred and twenty eggs at one time with an average of eighty eggs found in snail pens.
The eggs should be covered with about two inches of soil, excrement and mucus. The period of time for the eggs to hatch is about two to four weeks. This time is referred to as the gestation period. After the gestation period, the newly born snails should have hatched from their eggshells.
A transfer is done from the pen of the parents to a nursery pen to give the young one’s space to grow. The young ones are left in the nursery for about four months after which they would be sorted out to select the bigger ones from the smaller ones to be used as breeding stock.
A total period of thirteen to twenty-four months (one to two years) should be given for the baby snails to reach maturity and be a good quantity to begin sales on the market.
How lucrative is snail farming in Nigeria
Snails in Nigeria are sold at a good price and are usually high in demand. This eventually results in the snail farming business owners receiving a good amount of profit monthly or annually.
Some snail farmers sell their snails at every development stage which yields them more profit rather than waiting for a year or two before yielding profit.
An average monthly net profit of N200,000 to N300,000 is recorded by some snail farmers with their annual profit rising from about N3 million to N5 million.
Cost of starting a snail farm in Nigeria
The snail farming business is one of low risk and is very lucrative. It does not require a huge sum of money that will take a toll on your finances. With as little as N5,000 to N50,000, you can kickstart your snail farming business in Nigeria on a small scale. For example, having your snail farm in your backyard. On a larger scale, an amount of N100,000 to N200,000 can be used to startup your snail farm in Nigeria.
The market price of snails in Nigeria
Raw, fully developed snails are usually sold on the market from N100 to N600 each depending on their size and development stage. The biggest ones are sold for a higher cost of about N800 to N1,600 each. Farmers also sell snail eggs for N50 each.
Most local markets sell snails per kilogram with the average cost of snails per kilogram being N5,000 for live snails and N15,000 for snails that have been processed and frozen.
Problems of snail farming in Nigeria
Every business has its challenges and a way to overcome them. Here are the most common problems faced by snail farming businesses in Nigeria and easy ways to solve them:
- Climatic Factors – Due to changes in season in Nigeria, the weather tends to be too hot or too dry for the snails to survive. Excessive heat and dryness may lead to the death of snails on your snail farm.
Solution: Maintain a low temperature of 23℃ to 28℃ and humidity of 70%-90%. Water should also be sprinkled regularly in snail pens to ensure moisture.
- Predators – Animals like birds, frogs, snakes, crabs, rats and so on can feed on snails especially the eggs and young ones.
Solution: Structures for predator control should be installed around snail pens. The snails’ pens should also be elevated to prevent predators from crawling into them with trenches dug around them.
- Soil Type – Acidity in soil instead of high calcium can lead to a rapid increase in the mortality rate of snails on the farm.
Solution: Low water-holding loamy soil that is rich in calcium is what is best for snails in your snail farm.
- Light Intensity – Snails require a minimum amount of light to carry out their activities and maintain a consistent growth pattern. High intensity of light would prevent them from doing these effectively.
Solution: Since snails are most active during the night, light and temperature should be kept at low levels for the snails to carry out their activities.
- Diseases and Parasites – This issue can not be eradicated but can be reduced to a minimum level. Some diseases that affect snails the most are fungal, bacterial and deficiency-related. The most common symptoms are the snail having a fragile shell, low activity of the snail, excessive secretion of serum (oedema) and so on.
Solution: Snail farmers must be very observant and ensure that snails are properly fed with the right nutrients for a healthy diet. Farmers should also separate snails affected by diseases and parasites from the healthy set of snails.
- Snail Feed – Snails need food to grow. Giving snails the wrong type of feed is bad for their health and growth. This may cause them to fall sick and may lead them to death.
Solution: The right feed containing the right nutrients for the development of the snails are very essential. Feeds containing calcium are most important for their growth.
- Human Activities – Activities like bush burning and deforestation exposes snails and their eggs to harmful weather conditions which can lead to them going extinct on the farm.
Solution: All harmful human activities should be done far away from the snail farm. The snail farm should have a cool and cozy environment conducive enough for the snails.
Business Plan for starting a snail farm in Nigeria
Before diving into any business venture, you, first of all, need a business plan. To start a snail farming business in Nigeria you need to strategically plan how your business would run to reach the goals you have set for the business. Consider the following points when creating a business plan for your snail farm in Nigeria:
- Describe your business by stating the type of snail you would be breeding and selling on the market. Include what would make your snail farm different from other existing businesses and state your target market which is in Nigeria.
- List the benefits of your services to your target market and what demand your business meets.
- Explain your objectives as a snail farming business in Nigeria including your goals and your wish to achieve them.
- State, extensively, your marketing strategy.
- Observe your competitors and give an analysis of your competitive environment.
- Give an overview of the human requirements for the business and what they contribute to the snail farming business.
- Lastly, provide a summary of the financials required for the smooth operation of the business.