The Giant African Snail is sought after in parts of the world for its nutritional and cosmetic benefits. In Nigeria, some entrepreneurs have found opportunities to export the molluscs abroad.
LAGOS, NIGERIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) – Quitting an events planning job last year to invest in snails was the best career move Oluwatobilola Ohioma-Belo says she has ever made.
The entrepreneur sources snails from farmers in Lagos, Nigeria and sells them to clients locally and abroad.
Oluwatobilola collects the Giant African Land Snail species, which are used in the beauty and food industries.
The molluscs are increasingly being sought for their mucus, said to be full of collagen, glycolic acid, antibiotics and other compounds that regenerate skin cells and heal cuts.
Snail meat is also said to be nutritious – it is low in cholesterol and rich in proteins, making it a popular delicacy in various cultures.
Oluwatobilola is preparing to ship her fist consignment of 1,000 snails to the United Kingdom.
“The export business came when I started here in Lagos and I had a lot of enquiries from the US from the UK from Holland. Like a lot of Nigerians like, even when I knew that I have not even covered Lagos, even till now I have still not covered Lagos you know, so when I started having enquiries via email, via phone calls, then a lot of African stores were calling me… Oh, can you supply us, and you know in my head it just clicked that oh there is a market for it, so that is how the export business started. Even though it took me a while to be able to find out the modalities of exporting snails you know, outside of Nigeria,” said Oluwatobilola.
Snail Care Farm is one of Oluwatobilola’s suppliers. The 19 year-old farm breeds free-range snails. They roam and feed on greenery around the farm.
The Giant African Snail is native to East and West Africa, and is mostly found in agricultural areas, shrubs and wetlands.
Snails are hermaphrodites which means they can all lay eggs. The farm currently has over 20,000 snails.
Tadzio Okhiria, the Snail Care Farm managing director says demand for his snails has been growing fast in recent years.
“Because of its amazing benefits, not just nutritional benefits, but other benefits, for instance the slime now, it is being harvested massively and used in cosmetics and — cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, it has rejuvenating properties and helps with skin rejuvenation,” he said.
Oluwatobilola has spent about 4,000 US dollars to procure and ship this consignment of snails and expects to make a healthy profit.
Shipping of livestock requires that traders meet strict regulations. She contacted a cargo company that regularly handles livestock shipments to help guide her through the lengthy process.
“In terms of sourcing you know in large quantities, you have to really have your game really really tight, then having the right people who would freight for you, because I know a lot of people have issues, they tell me it took them like one week or two weeks, so by the time they get their goods its either it is rotten or the customers are not interested, or they are not as fresh as they were. So before I could get a freighting company that was reliable, it took time because you know, at the end of the day, you are looking at — you are spending a lot of money into this, you don’t just want to something wishy-washy and at the end of the day your life saving just goes down the drain,” said Oluwatobilola.
Oluwatobilola says she plans to expand her business and open a snail factory in Nigeria that can process snail meat and collect mucus, as well as grind snail shells into powder for fertilizer and poultry feed possessing.