Organic snails for local and export markets

If you’re eager to bank on the massive demand for snails, pick up the pace 

Every week, more snail farmers of all sizes are popping up in South Africa to meet the massive demand for snails, both locally and globally. When one considers the low risk, low start-up costs and high potential profits, it quickly becomes clear why.

A major advantage of snail farming is that almost anyone can do it, and that you can literally do it from anywhere, with very little space. Annie Roux and her team from Helix SA Snail Farm, for example, masterminded a way to get big yields from a really small space.

Annie explains that you can raise about 250 snails with 1 square metre of space. However, if you use their “curtain style” farming system, you can add “curtains” of 1 x 1 square metres onto it. This expands the 1 square metre you have into a space in which you can raise about 4 500 snails!

Fortunately, the weather in large parts of South Africa is ideal for snail farming, as snails thrive in mild, humid conditions. If the air in your area is not humid enough, you can raise them indoors – some of our most successful local snail farms kicked off in home garages.

The income potential from a snail farm is great, as there is a high demand for every part of the snail. The restaurant industry buys them because snails are a very popular dish. The cosmetic industry buys them because the slime has amazing skincare properties, and the shell is perfect for face powders and the like.

The shell of the snail is also utilised in other manufacturing industries. It’s used as a filler in the paper industry and as a source of calcium in animal feed, among many others. Helix Farm SA makes about R1 profit per snail and they currently have ≥5 000 breeders who will produce about 400 000 snails in the next 4-6 months.

How much you can earn per snail, however, depends on the type of snail you produce and the industry you supply. The current average price for breeding snails in South Africa is R7 each, while snails bought for consumption by the hospitality industry or for use in the cosmetic industry go for around R60 per kilo of live snails.

The snail species of choice in South Africa is the Helix aspersa, also known as petit gris, which is basically the common garden snail. It has the most diverse range of uses, in both the food and cosmetic industries. Foodies compare them to the popular French vineyard snail, as they are equally edible and can be prepared in the same way.

Thulani Mandula, who joined our rising local community of niche snail farmers in 2018, advises other aspiring snail farmers to first get training from an established snail farmer and to then remain in touch so you can keep on sharing ideas and learn from each other.

“In any business, you need to form partnerships and collaborations to succeed, and the snail farming business is no different,” he says. Which is why he became a “learner farmer” with Helix Snail Farm SA in the beginning and has been walking the road with them ever since.  

In conclusion, research shows that the demand for snails by far exceeds the local supply, and that there is a massive market for export as well. So, to get in on the success, you should certainly not move at a snail’s pace! For more info on how to get started and the training offered by Helix Snail Farm SA, go to: