Some heliciculturists in Abuja have called for more youth involvement in snail farming, to meet up with local and international demand.
The farmers told newsmen on Sunday, that heliculture (snail farming) was a lucrative agricultural business that many young entrepreneurs often overlooked.
Heliculture is the act of rearing or raising snails specifically for meat, slime, eggs, or other economic uses.
Mrs Antonia Ekpe, a snail farmer in Kuje, advised youths to invest in heliculture, adding that it’s a viable business venture that was gradually being explored in Nigeria and Africa.
According to her, snail farming had an inexhaustible market potential that not only tended to the production of meat, but also skin care products and medication.
Yamtaly Abdulmarie, Director, Dimfarms, said that few individuals were creating wealth and leaving behind legacies on snail farming in Nigeria.
He said there was need for more investors in the business considering that it was a lucrative venture with enormous benefits and huge market potentials.
”In Nigeria, the price of medium size snail cost between N250 to N600.
“Research showed that the annual demand for snail in Nigeria is about 7.5 million kg annually and countries like U.S. imports more than four million dollars worth of snails annually from all over the world, including Nigeria.
“Imagine the broad benefits that can be reaped from the venture, yet we see only a small influx of youths into the sector.
“Snail farming is a low-risk business. Unlike many other livestock businesses, snail farming required very little start up and operating costs.
”It is not time intensive and allows you to focus on other businesses,” he said.
Abdulmarie, however, pointed out the need for scientific research and long-term investments in the development of snail farming in the country.
Mr Victor Onwuchekwa, a heliculturist and Chief Executive Officer of Animal Agro Ventures (AAV), called on government to properly sensitise the youths on snail farming and encourage investments on all platforms.
“Youths should have access to credit facilities from the government with a favourable repayment plan, to enable beneficiaries to manage the business.
“They should be introduced to snail farming through the Centre for Entrepreneurial Development programmes in the universities, National Youth Service Scheme programmes and skills intervention plans, “he said.
Onwuchekwa said that besides been a source of protein, there were other benefits derived from snails, such as cosmetic and medicinal ingredients.
”Snail slime (the drawing liquid) is used by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries in the treatment of skin diseases such as pimples.
“It also provides vitamin B12, an essential vitamin needed to prevent and control diabetes. The benefits are numerous,” he said.
Speaking on the sector’s challenges, Mr Kalu Igbe, said that the major challenges on Nigeria’s heliculture ranged from lack of access to capital to infrastructure, among others.
“Returns on investment in snail farming are as slow as the snail themselves. This makes it difficult for snail farmers to access loans from financial institutions or establishments.
“However, financial institutions must understand that snail farming was a long term investment that yielded more than 100 per cent of its input.
”Lack of technical know-how in snail farming is another challenge that threatens the sector’s existence,” he said.
Igbe said more research needed to be carried out if the sector must survive another decade and meet up with international standards,’ he said.
Mrs Justina Ayuba, another heliculturist, noted that snail farming practice by itself was highly untapped, as it was a money making machine with vast possibilities.
She advised youths to seize opportunities presented to them rather than waiting for government intervention.