News and knowhow for farmers

Chia offers Sh1m an acre per year as new wonder crop

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Chia farming is a new arrival in Kenya, but production of the annual herb is being taken up rapidly by farmers as its outstanding health benefits drive galloping demand growth in both local and international markets.

According to Lilian Aketch, a nutritional and dietetic consultant based in Nairobi, chia seeds are emerging as a superfood due to the high density of nutrients they contain, which include high levels of omega-3 fatty acid, calcium, manganese, and phosphorus.

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“Chia’s popularity is on the rise globally due to the fact that it caters perfectly well for the current, savvy, health conscious consumer since the US and EU allowed its commercialization as a food in 2009 leading to the growth of its market.”

Chia seeds global market potential

The Chia seed global market is projected to reach $2.1bn by 2022, growing by over 40 per cent a year from 2017 to 2022.

In East Africa, Uganda exports the finest Chia in the world, selling to the EU, notably to Germany, Denmark, Italy, France and the UK. But in 2017, it was able to meet less than 30 per cent of the market demand as a result of the pace of the market’s growth.

In Kenya

Farmers in western Kenya especially Busia County which shares the same geography and climate as Eastern Uganda, where 90 per cent of Uganda’s Chia is grown, have begun taking the venture seriously, with about 2,000 farmers from Bungoma, Busia and Homabay counties now growing the crop.

They currently harvest about 5-10 tonnes each per season, which they sell to Momentum Trust, a Danish organisation based in Kenya with its headquarters in Suaya County, at Sh150 per kilo. The organisation exports 1400 tonnesa year of organic Chia Seeds to Denmark.

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A good number of farmers from Nakuru (Solai, Njoro and Molo), Meru and Nanyuki are also taking up the cultivation of the seed in a development that is opening up a significant opportunity for traders, with Chia buyers from the EU and to some extent the US now looking at Kenya as a potential source for the seed.

Potential commercial value for farmers

At an average of 300 kilograms per harvest per acre, for 3 harvests per year at $12 (Sh1200) a kilogram, when sold to local wholesale retailers, Chia is offering farmers the chance of very high returns..

Broadly as a calculation that comes out as 300kgs times 3 harvests times $12(Sh1200) @Kg = $ 10,800 or Sh1,080,000 per year per acre in attainable income.

The advantages for farmers in western Kenya are based on the region’s ability to deliver high quality seeds.

Global price for traders

Globally, a kilo of chia seeds currently sells at $6.00-$12.00 (Sh600-1200), depending on the quality and how the seeds have been produced (either conventionally with pesticides or organically).

Prices in the export markets also depend on the quality and certification of the exporters. Normally, all Grade A chia seeds have between 28-32 per cent oil, and of that oil, 60 per cent is omega-3 (alfalinolenic) and 17 per cent is omega-6 (linolenic).

To be classified as Grade A chia seeds must have the following qualities:

-Purity, more than 99.90 per cent

-Fat content, close to 30 per ent

-Low microbiological and aflatoxin levels

-Bright color, between black, gray and white. Brown seeds aren’t normally good quality chia.

Meanwhile, the typical costs of production are as below:

Approximate budget for five acres of chia farming, to earn up to Sh5m a year

Cost Type

   Individual item Cost (Sh)

Total Cost (Sh)

Land lease 5 acres



Seeds 10 kg X 5 acres



Ploughing 5 acres



Harrowing 5 acres



Planting 5 acres



Labour( 5L X 5 acres) 2



Harvesting 5 acres



Unforeseen circumstances







Philip of Momentum Trust can be reached on 0725924401 while Dismas of Busia chia farmers group can be reached through 0714416492


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