By S. Olanrewaju Disu
Snails are available in most of the urban, sub-urban and rural markets in the whole of Lagos. They come in all shapes and sizes!
In description, a snail is an invertebrate animal with a soft, unsegmented body usually enclosed in a calcareos spiral shell. It is a slow-moving nocturnal animal. The most popular type of African snails found in our markets is scientifically known as "achatina achatina, Family achatinidae".
Like many other agricultural products in our markets, snails are abundant during the rains and sell at affordable prices, whereas during the dry season the reverse is the case. However, this situation is ameliorated by the upsurge in the establishment of large scale snail-farming both for local consumption and export, too.
The south-west part of Nigeria is situated in the tropical rain-forest. Furthermore, there are mangrove swamps. These ecosystems form natural habitats for snails. From time immemorial, there are peasant farmers who, during the rains, picked snails in very large numbers from the forests and swamps. The large sized and marketable ones are then brought down to the markets by middlemen and women.
On the other hand, younger snails are snapped up by snail-breeders who keep them in commercial quantities and nurture and sell them for huge profits. This is so because an adult snail is capable of laying about 300 eggs in a season, with about 33-34% hatching rate per clutch. Interestingly, snails are hermaphrodites and they mate for between six and ten hours!
Assumed medicinal value of snails among our people make snail-selling a profitable venture in our markets. Experts say the meat contains almost all the amino-acids that the human body needs. Also, there are other beneficial by-products, e.g., the shell, a source of gum, and its colorless blood which is useful locally for the treatment of hypertension. Above all, snails are now potential foreign-exchange earner when exporter. In other words, snail-farming is no longer just a local busines, but has now gined international acceptance!
A. Adult snails on display at a section of "Sura" Snail Market in Lagos Island. Much bigger quantities are available for export
B. A retail snail seller at the same market in Lagos Island