Kenyan farmers are increasingly picking up chia seed farming owing to the grain seeds’ niche local and international markets sparked by the seeds’ various nutritional properties that appeal to the health conscious consumers across the world.
Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, antioxidants, iron, calcium and are gluten free. Currently, the seeds are utilized by various industries including functional food, animal feed and cosmetics.
According to Africa Chia Seeds Market – Growth, Trends and Forecasts (2017 – 2022) by Mordor Intelligence, US based global market research intelligence, currently due to high demand and relatively low supply of chia seeds, value of chia and chia containing products are much higher as compared to canola, soy and flax seeds.
In food and beverage industry chia seeds are getting promoted as packed superfood and as supplements in bakeries, in cereals, muesli bars, peanut butter and beverages.
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In Western Kenya, already there are 2,000 farmers growing chia crop in Bungoma, Busia and Homa Bay counties under contract with Momentum Trust, a Danish organization headquartered in Siaya County and working with small-scale farmers in Africa.
The organization exports 1400 tons of organic Chia Seeds annually to Denmark while some are sold to local companies such as Healthy U.
“We always harvest between 2-5 tonnes per season of chia seeds which is not enough for export,” said Philip Odhiambo, the organisation’s Homabay-Oyugis branch manager.
“We have been mobilizing the farmers and there is increased interest among them to pick up the venture. However, there is need for a higher price by the farmers as this will continue motivating them.”
According to a February 2017 Market Research by Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) on production of different crops and nuts in Busia County, an acre of chia crop can yield up to seven tones of chia seeds under good agronomical practices.
The seeds can fetch a farmer up to Sh1500 per kilogram in the local market and while Momentum Trust offers Sh150 per kilo, there is intention by the organization to find a better price for their farmers.
Currently Momentum Trust farmers in various have already started harvesting their crops expecting to realise five tonnes of chia seeds in one month.