Giant snail farm proposed in solar greenhouses in Naxxar

A snail farm is being proposed in greenhouses on a 10,400sq.m plot along Triq tal-Balal and Triq A. Murray in Naxxar

A massive snail farm is being proposed in greenhouses on a 10,400sq.m plot along Triq tal-Balal and Triq A. Murray in Naxxar, in the vicinity of a newly erected old people’s home.

Cammast, a company owned by Master Wine Holdings, filed the application for the 4.4m-high greenhouses, which will occupy 6,000sq.m and have overlying photovoltaic panels.

A number of trees found in the area are set to be “relocated”. The Planning Authority’s agricultural advisory committee has already pointed out that the PV panels the proposed PV panels are not allowed by the 2014 rural policy, as they cannot be considered as “small scale”.

While a draft policy regulating solar farms limits such developments to quarries, snail farming is encouraged by Malta’s National Agricultural Policy, which has called for a comprehensive study on its potential in Malta. New developments in food production sectors such as hydroponics, aquaponics, vermiculture, insect protein farms and snail farming are viewed favourably.

The PA recently approved another snail farm just 100m away from the newly proposed one, in the Xwieki area between Iklin and Naxxar. The farm was proposed by Malta Snails, a company partly owned by the same Cammast director, Louie Camilleri.

In this case three greenhouses will be used exclusively for snail farming, covering a total area of circa 1,481sq.m. The farm will be operated as a closed system to ensure that the snails are contained within the greenhouses, not to disrupt agricultural activities in the surrounding area.

Breeding snails are contained in pans of soil and low-growing grass to support humid conditions. To ensure a closed system, the pans’ edges are equipped with a low voltage electric fence to ensure the snails remain within the pan area. The eggs hatch around September and the snails are harvested in May, when they reach a weight of approximately 10 grams each.

In 2014, it was estimated that the total consumption of snails reached an annual 450,000 tons, for a value of $12 billion dollars. Only 15% consumed presently originate from breeding farms. China accounts for 42% of snail imports followed by France (23%), Italy (10%), Belgium (6%) and Greece (4%). The edible snail accounts for 80 per cent of snails being bred in European snail farms.