Process 2 million snails annually
Unlike many Nigerian graduates who roam the cities in search of government and private jobs, this young man decided to pursue an entrepreneurship degree and, after completing several training courses and internships in heliculture (snail farming), co-founded one of the largest snail farms one eye firmly on local and international markets.
In conversation with Daily trustMr. Oko Agbahi, 33, explained why he chose to invest in snail farming rather than investing in popular sub-sectors such as poultry, fisheries or other livestock sectors.
“With over 10 years of experience advising, producing, processing, buying and selling snails and their by-products, I have developed a keen eye for detail while assisting with production and processing for the global market, which has given me the capacity and the skills to build equipped a 50,000 capacity snail farm and set up my company, Gals Agro Limited, with my partner Bala Longyen in March 2020,” he said.
Coy is a Giant African Land Snails production, processing and consultancy company dedicated to raising the standards of snail farming in Nigeria.
The agribusiness is currently building one of the largest snail farms in the Ubulu Okiti Local Government Area of Delta State, motivated by the existing huge demand-supply gap of over 60 percent.
The farm is expected to start production in the fourth quarter of this year – on October 1, 2022 to be exact.
“We are building 20 greenhouses, 200 ditch pens and a snail farm with 12 plantations. This project is expected to produce, process and export an estimated two million snails annually from Q1 2023, as well as process snail slime (slime) in commercial quantities for cosmetic companies on a local and global scale to produce snail feed in commercial quantities for sale locally and globally, as well as other by-products from the heliculture. Our infrastructure and technology is up to the world’s best standards as we are a very futuristic and technology driven company pioneering very modern approaches to agriculture in Nigeria.
“Our motivation for getting into heliculture (snail farming) rather than other more popular forms of livestock farming is that snail farming is relatively cheaper and the increasing local/global demand for heliculture products, mainly snails (meat & slime) exceeds supply by over 60 percent,” he said.
Oko explained that the economic potentials of snail farming in Nigeria are huge as it is a relatively new area of livestock farming with great demand both domestically and internationally, which is why he is building “Africa’s largest snail farms individually” under the auspices of the company.
Keep an eye on the global market of N545 billion
The global market for edible snails is 300,000 tons worth US$1.3 billion (about N$545 billion) with an annual compact growth rate of 4.5 percent per year.
The farmer highlighted several reasons that make snail farming profitable, including high profit margin, easily exportable live, with a shelf life of 2 to 6 months, not prone to serious diseases, and relatively low initial investment.
Why the demand for snails is increasing
dr Joseph Cobbinah, Adri Vink, and Ben Onwuka Writing about “Snail Farming: Production, processing and marketing” in 2008, it was noted that the snail is “high in protein (12–16 percent) and iron (45–50 mg/kg), low in fat, and almost all of the from Humans need amino acids.”
They particularly noted that snail meat has traditionally been an important part of their diet for people living in highly forested areas of West Africa.
“In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, an estimated 7.9 million kg are consumed annually. In Ghana it is clear that demand is currently outstripping supply. The international trade in snails is thriving in Europe and North America. However, despite significant foreign and local demand, commercial snail farms in Africa are scarce as in Europe, Southeast Asia and America.
“In Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, where snail meat is particularly popular, snails are collected from the forest during the rainy season. However, in recent years, wild snail populations have declined significantly, mainly due to the impact of human activities such as deforestation, use of pesticides, agricultural slash and burn, spontaneous bush fires, and the collection of immature snails. It is therefore important to encourage snail farming (heliculture) to conserve this important resource,” they said.
Regarding the product’s nutritional value, Mr Agbahi said that the other “medicinal value of snail meat includes the treatment of whooping cough, anemia, asthma and high blood pressure due to its relatively low cholesterol levels, but its high mineral content form an essential part of both the cell nucleus and the.” cell protoplasm and are found in most extracellular animal tissue fluids.
“With the increasing prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases resulting from overconsumption of saturated fatty foods, particularly from animal sources, combined with physical inactivity, snail meat consumption may help create white-collar jobs Curbing the high incidence of diet-related non-communicable diseases.”
access to funds
One of the challenges farmers generally face is accessing money to fund their farms, but the farmer said he was able to overcome some of those challenges with finance.
“Our work speaks for itself as we have been able to secure funding from both local and foreign investors willing to invest significantly in the heliculture sector. We have built capacity over the years by providing our clients with world class service and by the caliber of farms we have built and the level of profit we have been able to generate for our investors.
“We are fortunate that the government at the time put in place a lot of incentives to encourage agribusiness, we don’t see challenges, we only see opportunities to offer solutions,” he said.
His plans for the future
Discussing his plans for the project in the years to come, Mr Agbahi said he wants to offer advisory services and training to other snail farmers, “build large, commercially viable snail farms that conform to global best practices and consistently produce good quality and affordable snails.” and their by-products (snail slime, snail food, snail shell, snail waste and processed snail sand).
He also wants to “contribute to the community by creating jobs and building a vast network of heliculturists to engage the value chain while building human capacity to contribute to food sustainability.”
And most importantly, “remaining financially viable and operating efficiently to ensure the business receives sufficient revenue to cover all of its costs and expenses.”
He sees synergy as a key element for successful farming, adding that “we can claim to have the widest network of heliculturists (snail farmers) in Nigeria. We consider every customer as a partner; Not only do we advise and build farms for our clients, we even go so far as to offer to manage and operate the farm to ensure our clients achieve significant returns on their investments.”
“Having a wide network of heliculturists, I have advised and worked with several agro-companies and individuals to start and grow their own snail farms,” he said.