By Carlena Knight
As the fight to contain the spread of the Giant African Snail continues, officials from the Plant Protection Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture are now opened to approving proposals for the commercial use of the invasive species.
This is according to Chief Plant Protection Officer Dr Janil Gore-Francis, who spoke about the possibility of such policies.
“Several persons over the years have shown an interest in some sort of commercial activity. As you know, the current policy is eradication so what we have done is invite those persons to submit a proposal detailing what is the nature of the commercial proposition so that it can be reviewed to ensure that giving the thumbs up for the project would not leave us in a worse situation that where we are now.
“The whole idea is to have these things removed from the environment. We are advising persons if they have these ideas to submit them in writing with all of the relevant safety features to give your proposal the best possible chance of acceptance. But, as I said, we have to ensure that whatever it is, it does not facilitate multiplication of the snail in a way that is going to affect the environment,” Dr Gore-Francis said.
Regarding the eating of the snail, Francis is cautioning consumers on the correct practices as the snails carry diseases which could affect humans.
“In consumption of these things you have to know what you are doing because they carry diseases that can affect humans. Generally, snails that are consumed in countries where they are delicacies live in the wild, so there is not all of this pesticide, molluscicide and so on in the environment.
“So, what they are using is natural, untainted material and some persons who use the snails commercially, obviously, they are grown in a more sterile environment because they are not exposed to all of these elements. Whatever you do with these snails must be done so that it does not cause the consumer any issues,” the chief plant protection officer said.
The Giant African Snail was first sighted in the southern part of Antigua and Barbuda around 2006, and since then it has spread to almost every other community on the island.
Usually dormant during the dry season, it is considered a threat to the national food security as it is capable of devouring agricultural crops overnight, and lays hundreds of eggs at a time, and is most active during the wet season.