Market Opportunities for Snail Farming in Africa
Most of the snails supplied to the African market are gathered from bushes and forests during the rainy season (usually between April and September).
Because snails are very dormant during the dry season, they become increasingly scarce during this period and the market is starved of adequate supply until the next wet season. This makes the supply of snails very seasonal in many parts of Africa where they serve as food.
As a consequence, snails can fetch much higher prices during the dry season (December to March) when supply often does not keep up with demand.
Snails may go on break during the dry seasons but the human appetite for its taste always remains, and continues to grow throughout the year. And to think that several festivities take place during the dry season (Christmas et al), makes this a first choice agribusiness.
Due to steadily growing demand from customers, hotels and restaurants are always in need of snail delicacies on their menus. And given the significant upside to the profits that can be made, it makes a lot of sense to take maximum advantage of this market when the supply of snails is significantly short.
There is also growing demand in Europe for giant African snails. Apart from their great taste, many people abroad like to keep them as pets and keepsakes due to their sheer size (I was surprised too!). But never mind, you are likely to be very busy satisfying the local demand to bother about exports.
However, it’s still good to know that such foreign market opportunities exist for this small business. If you’re interested in exports, you could read up the How to export to the USA and Europe section of our Dried and Smoked fish export article.
Giant African snails are a popular sight on Africa’s interstate and transnational highways (photo credit: Frans Lanting)
Success tips for aspiring Snail farming in Africa
As a Smallstarter, your primary goal should be to take advantage of the seasonality of this market in order to gain premium prices for your snails. Target the high-end customers (hotels, restaurants and households) who can afford to pay a premium for a steady supply of the product.
If you supply all year round, you are likely to earn lesser during the rainy seasons (when supply is in abundance) and more in the dry seasons (when the product is scarce).
You could buy cheaply from the villages and other remote areas while the supply is up during the rainy season and maintain a healthy stock of large snails that you can unleash on your customers when supply falls in the dry season.
But to achieve this, there is a very important condition. The size of your snails must be large and ‘intimidating’ enough to command a premium (high) price.
For this to happen, you must start your snail farm with the right species (the Giant African type) and ensure that you apply proper breeding, stocking and feeding practices to achieve the huge sizes that will make you a highly sought after supplier.
If your snails are bred well, they should start to reach market size from six to twelve months, although some farmers like to leave theirs for much longer. (photo credit: msn.com)
Presently, more than 90 percent of the snails supplied to our local markets are picked from the forests. While this has been the traditional supply source, our growing population and rising rural to urban migration rates make it unsustainable.
An artificial intervention like snail farming is the only way to satisfy the growing demand. And as long as a huge chunk of the market depends on snails captured in the wild, nobody can assure a steady and consistent supply of large snails like a farmer who breeds snails in his/her backyard!