In the absence of official reports on the local snail market in Liberia, restaurants, hotels, and households are the most common consumers of snail meat in Liberia.
However, the supply of snails to markets remains inconsistent since they are seasonally available. The slimy creatures are only in abundance during the wet season (rainy season), a time when rural dwellers handpick the slow-moving brown-shelled creatures from thick bushes to supply the urban market. Supply of snails during the dry season stays low while the price doubles at this season of the year.
But a married couple has stepped up to address the inconsistent supply of the delicate creatures by farming snails, and are cashing in on it.
“The question that came to mind was, ‘how do you have something that you enjoy year-round?’ I am a big lover of snails; so my husband and I decided to explore having them year-round,” said Brenda Brewer Moore, Co-founder of the Brewer and Moore Farm.
In July this year, the couple rolled their plans into action by starting up the J&A’s Delicacies, a subsidiary of their farm that is providing a full array of snail products including cooked snails, roasted snails, frozen snails, and live snails.
Their business currently supplies hundreds of packaged snails to supermarkets, restaurants, and households in major cities in Montserrado County.
But success in the supply of snails for Brenda and her husband, Ransford Moore, Sr., did not come from the very start. “It was a step by step process,” says Brenda.
“At first, we started by sourcing the snails from markets in the urban part of the city, and then we moved on to source directly from the hinterland, precisely Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties. We did that for some time until the farm was able to supply the company.”
Snail farming may not be the first thing that crosses one’s mind when considering an agricultural project to embark on, but its high nutritional value makes it a well-sought after delicacy in this age. Snail meat is also high in protein content with a low level of cholesterol. Additionally, snail meat is very rich in vitamin E, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
With a current capacity of two thousand snails, Brenda says that their farm aspires to breed ten thousand snails in their first one year of operation. Speaking about her business position in the next five years, Brenda says that they hope to have snails from Liberia exported to the United States of America. Their snail pen, situated in the Thinkers Village area, is enough to house more than 6,000 snails.
“Currently we have two thousand snails and that could triple in the next six months; [additionally,] we are looking out for opportunities to have our product exported to the USA; that is our long term goal,” says Ransford.
But, in order to have their product well prepared for the export market, the Moores would have to beat the packaging issue, a major hurdle for small agribusinesses startups in the value-addition space in Liberia.
In West Africa, a major snail consumption region, wild stocks have been endangered by over gathering for some years now. Production systems must be developed in Africa if this resource is to avoid the path of endangered species and remain in sustainable supply. The major objective of the small-scale snail-farming sector is to replace wild snail gathering gradually with rational production techniques, says the United National Food and Agriculture Organization-Rearing unconventional livestock species: a flourishing activity.