Chia farmers maximise profits with mechanisation

NWOYA – To maximise profits, farmers growing chia in Nwoya district have embraced mechanisation in planting and harvesting of the crop.

Farmers hire machines [planters] at Shs 50,000 to plant an acre of chia seeds while they hire a combine harvester at a similar amount to harvest an acre of the crop.

Abdulatif Alinanye who grows over 50 acres of chia twice a year told this reporter recently that planters save time and ensure even planting as opposed to using labourers.

“Using planters ensures that the seeds are evenly planted compared to manual planting where one may broadcast too much seed in one section of the land, leaving other places without seeds being planted. A planter will take about three hours to plant 20 acres of chia while human labour may require days,” he said.

Alinanye noted that using machines also minimises farm losses. “When you use a combine harvester to harvest 20 acres of chia, you will earn Shs 30 million but if you use human labour, you are likely to earn Shs 7mln while the rest of the crop is wasted in the field,” he said.

Calisti Agunda, another chia seeds farmer in Nwoya district who owns 40 acres of the crop said mechanisation eliminates the need to weed the crop. “Chia is an organic crop that does not require chemicals but if you fail to cover the field properly, you will give space for weeds,” he said.

Agunda said an acre of chia can yield up to 200 kilogrammes if a farmer uses a planter machine and a combined harvester.

Meanwhile, Talia Group Limited, a chia seeds export company recently introduced contract farming in Nwoya district to encourage more farmers to join the agribusiness, some farmers having abandoned the business earlier because of price fluctuations.

Under contract farming, farmers and the buyer [Talia Group] agree on the selling price of the crop even before it is planted. A kilogramme of chia seeds currently costs Shs 5,000 at the farmgate.

James Muathe, the director Talia Group Limited said they target to export at least 5,000 metric tons of chia seeds to Germany and China in the second season. The company exported 1, 200 metric tons of chia seed in 2022.

Meanwhile, Talia Group is giving out free chia seeds to 5,000 farmers in Omoro, Gulu, Kitgum and Nwoya in a bid to increase production.

“We need about 18,000 farmers in Northern Uganda to grow chia so that we meet the target of 5,000 metric tons,” Muathe said. The company has signed contracts with 3,000 farmers in Gulu, Kitgum 2,500 and 4,000 in Dokolo.

Although not largely consumed locally, chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help to reduce body inflammation and improve cardiovascular health.

Chia seeds provide fiber, which improves digestion and also helps reduce cholesterol levels, and a protein that the body uses to repair and build cells.

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