How To Start Chia Seeds Farming Business in Nigeria or Africa: Guide

How To Start A Lucrative Chia Seeds Farming Business in Nigeria or Africa: Complete Guide | Image: Pixabay

Chia seeds are edible seeds of the species Salvia Hispanica, which is a flowering plant belonging to the mint family. It is a pseudo-cereal plant, usually cultivated for its consumable hydrophilic chia seeds. The plant is native to Central and Southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is grown as food in several countries including Western South America, Western Mexico and the South Western United States. Mexico currently holds the highest record for the most massive production and exportation of chia seeds globally. It exports to Japan, the USA and Europe in significant quantities.

Meanwhile, Chia production in Africa is still on the verge of building momentum. In 2019, the consumption value of chia seeds was valued at 1.20 million USD. It is projected to reach an amount of 1.33 million USD before 2025 with a CAGR of about 2.0%. Africa currently imports more chia seeds than it imports, with Nigeria being no exception.

Nigeria’s market share value of chia seeds in terms of global export is ranked 66th with a rate of 0.1%, while its import rate is ranked 104th, at a rate of 0.00% to the tune of 190.07k (USD). The rising popularity of chia seeds among consumers is fuelled by the increasing industrial application of chia seeds globally. The use of chia seeds in food and beverages, cosmetic industries, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products has continued to grow globally. As a result, the demand for chia seed is on the increase, playing a very significant role in helping entry-level market players harness the market.

More so, the rising popularity of vegan protein-based foods is promoting the global demand for chia seeds in the food industry. Based on this, the growing popularity of organic chia seeds among health-conscious consumers is expected to boost the market growth of chia seeds over four years. The Global Chia Seeds market is predicted to grow at a significant rate of 8.86% from 2019 to 2024. Thus, it is expected to reach a market value of USD 450 million by the end of 2024. This article aims at discussing the scope of chia seed farming. It will also unveil the challenges facing confronting chia seed farming, and guide you through the business.

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What Is A Chia Seed?

Chia seeds are seeds belonging to the mint family of Lamiaceae and vary in sizes depending on available moisture and warmth available. The leaves of the plant are dark green, thick and wrinkled. They are deeply lobed with a thin cover of intricate, soft, greyish hairs on the upper surface. The chia plant has flowers with two lips. Each flower has 13 tiny flat seeds of about 1.5 – 2mm in length. The chia seed is a specie with high essential fatty acid content. It is consumed patronised mostly by vegetarians who opt for healthier options of protein as well as essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in the body.


What Is Chia Seed Farming?

Chia seed farming involves all the process involved in the cultivation of the chia seed from the planting stage to the pruning to actual harvesting of the chia seeds. Naturally, chia grows well in tropical and subtropical environments, reaching a length of up to 3cm to 4cm under dry climate conditions and 60cm,l if it gets optimal growth conditions. It is a sensitive plant requiring minimum and maximum temperatures of 11° and 36°C respectively to reach its full yield.

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Business Opportunities Associated With Chia Seed Farming

1). Sources of Food:

Chia seeds are very versatile seeds that can be adapted to diets in varieties of ways. Technically, they can be eaten whole, added to salads and side dishes, used as bread spreads, used as toppings for food, and so on. In addition, the chia seeds can be soaked and drunk as a medicine when added to milkshakes and smoothies, or drunk as tea.

2). As Feed For Livestock and Manure:

The chia leaves are good sources of feed for livestock and are beneficial to animal growth. Notwithstanding, it can be used as much for the soil, providing a natural stalk to your compost heap. When incorporated in your mulch, chia leaves could significantly increase the yield of your farm.

3). As a value seed:

The Chia seed is currently one of the most expensive seeds sold commercially in Nigeria at rates as high as N5,500 per bag. Therefore, chia seeds can be sold for profit or given as a valuable gift.


Facts And Benefits of Chia Seeds

  • Chia seeds are rich sources of with omega-3 fatty acids and six fatty acids which are vital for brain health.
  • They help to combat constipation
  • A serving of chia seeds contains 18% of the recommended daily intake for calcium and manganese, which helps you to maintain healthy bone and oral health.
  • Chia seeds help to prevent osteoporosis.
  • Chia seeds contain lots of phosphorous, and this element is required by the body to synthesise protein for cell and tissue growth and repair.
  • Chia seeds are almost similar to the value of egg in terms of protein content, so they make a great source of protein for vegetarians and don’t have any cholesterol.
  • Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru record the highest production rate of chia seeds.
  • Chia has a stabilising effect on blood sugar by fighting insulin resistance.
  • While tryptophan is responsible for that strong urge to nap, chia seeds regulate appetite, sleep and improve mood.
  • Chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in diabetic patients, and may also increase good cholesterol while lowering total, LDL, and triglyceride cholesterol.
  • Chia seeds are rich sources of antioxidants which fight the production of free radicals, the agents that cause cancer.
  • Chia seeds are much easier to use than the flaxseed.
  • Chia seeds do not require blending and can be eaten raw, added to porridges, puddings and smoothies.
  • Chia seeds are great substitutes for eggs.
  • Just one tablespoon of chia seeds contains 5g of fibre
  • Chia seeds are completely free of gluten

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Types of Chia seeds

There are mostly two types of Chia seeds; the white and the black seeds, although the nutritional difference is so marginal between the two that most might consider them as being entirely equal.

1). The black chia seeds:

The black chia seeds contain a little more protein than the white seeds, and they yield more than the white variety.

2). The white chia seeds:

White seeds contain more Omega-3 fatty acid than the black seeds. These differences are often very marginal and could even pass undetected, but concerning public preference, the black seeds are used mostly as seed or oil while the white make better flours or meals.


How To Start Chia Seed Farming In Nigeria: Step-By-Step Guide

Here is a detailed guide on how to start a successful chia seed farming:

1). Get the necessary knowledge and funds:

It is important to get the right knowledge about the plant first and, if possible, engage experts to keep you in the know of how to maximise your investment. Besides, just like every agro-based business needs funds to start up, chia seed is no exception. You must ensure you have enough capital. Chia seeds are pricey to obtain in Nigeria because of high value-based import tax.

2). Get the right land:

The Chia plant requires well-drained fertile soils, ranging between medium clay or sandy textures. It is usually cultivated in open, grassy areas of woodlands, in sandy washes, hillside sites. Chia plants yield better in elevations which are below 1200 meters.  Adequate moisture is also necessary for the plant’s growth. Therefore, you should consider all these when looking for the choice of location as well as make provisions for sound irrigation systems, if need be.

3). Planting the seeds:

Traditionally, cultivation techniques of Chia seeds requires soil preparation done by disruption and loosening, followed by seed broadcasting. In highlights, the steps involved in the planting of the chia seeds include;

  • Expose the planting site to create excellent tillage.
  • Create trenches in a row of about 1 – 2cm.
  • Raffle or scatter in the tiny seeds of Chia and gently cover the soil.
  • Water lightly to provide water for germination.
  • In about a week, you should see tiny upshoot of sprouts.
  • Weed the crowded areas to reduce nutrient competition.
  • When the flowers have fallen off, go ahead to handpick them.

4). Harvesting:

Chia seeds are appropriate to harvest when the petals have fallen off. You have to wait for the flower heads to turn brown or risk losing the seeds. Harvesting requires handpicking the flower heads and spreading them on a drying rack to allow to dry. This process helps to release the chia seeds easily. The next step is to hull the seeds and use them appropriately or store them in a container for future use.

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Challenges of Chia Seed Farming in Nigeria

  • Poor weather conditions.
  • Photoperiod sensitive nature of the plant
  • Pests and diseases.
  • Poor marketing strategies.
  • Lack of experience.
  • High cost of seeds.
  • Unfavourable international market policies
  • Requires time and efforts to handpick
  • Fluctuation in prices of chia seeds
  • Inexperience among chia seeds farmers in Nigeria
  • Low government support for chia seed farming
  • Absence of mechanised systems to make chia seed farming easier.
  • Harvesting chia seeds could a long process and very labour intensive.

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To Sum It Up

The production of chia seeds in Nigeria is experiencing growth hurdles, owing to the high import cost of chia seeds, price fluctuations, and lack of awareness among farmers about the profitability from the cultivation of chia seeds. At the same time, if we can probe into our technological systems to encourage advancements in seed science, there would likely be a rapid improvement in chia seeds farming.

The chia seeds farming business in Nigeria can be a lucrative and profitable venture to start-up, due to its vast market demand and on your ability to build a wide supply chain network. If you’re looking for a supply chain business to venture into, the chia seeds farming business in Nigeria is a great option to explore.


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