Minister Warns Rice Farmers of Golden Snail

Warning that an invasive species of snail could damage rice paddies across Cambodia, Minister of Agri­cul­ture Chan Sarun is offering cash re­wards to farmers who gather as many of the pests as possible.

Farmers who collect golden ap­ple snails—a species of gastropod na­tive to South America that feeds on newly-sprouted rice paddy seed­lings—will receive payments of 300 riel per kilogram, Chan Sa­run told farmers in Kampot prov­ince’s Chhuk district this week.

He cautioned farmers not to use pesticides to kill the snails because this will also kill other types of beneficial insects.

Instead, he urged farmers to collect adult snails by hand and transport ducks to newly transplanted rice fields to feast on the snails’ eggs.

That process is underway in the Philippines, where the snails have proven cheaper than pricey commercial feeds for mallard duck far­mers, according to a World Bank report.

Besides bringing ducks into the paddies, Chan Sarun recommended that red ants—which also feed on the eggs—can help to deter the spread of the snail, infestations of which scientists say can destroy up to 60 percent of farmers’ rice crops.

Iv Phirun, with the Integrated Pest Management program, which works with the Ministry of Agri­culture, said farmers can easily differentiate between the eggs of the golden apple snail and those of native snail species.

“The golden snail lays pink eggs and the local snail has white-colored eggs,” he said. He added that the invasive species arrived here about eight years ago.

The snail was introduced to the re­­gion around 25 years ago through the aquarium trade, ac­cord­ing to the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Organization. The species was first brought to Taiwan, where people stocked it in their aquariums to eat algae and scum on tank walls.

Eventually, someone suggested introducing the snail as a high protein supplement for the rural poor, ac­cording to the FAO. Govern­ment farm programs were set up in Taiwan and the Philip­pines to rear the snails for food.

However, scientists said the poor never took to eating the snails, and the farms were abandoned, allowing the snails to escape into waterways and irrigation canals.


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