The handsome returns chia crop gave farmers in parts of the district last year has become a talking point among the farming community, not just in south Karnataka but also in the northern districts.
The Raitha Mitra Farmers’ Producers’ Company, which is in the forefront of promoting this crop of Mexican origin that is known for its high nutritional value, has been flooded with enquiries from farmers in north Karnataka who have been hit hard by successive droughts.
Chia has been described by food scientists as a ‘super-food’ because of its high-energy ingredients. The Raitha Mitra Farmers’ Producers’ Company, an entity of farmers founded in Mysuru, encouraged over 100 farmers to grow the crop last year. More than 10 tonnes of ‘white chia’ variety was grown and sold to food processing companies that had entered into purchase agreements with the company.
Each farmer got an assured Rs. 24,000 a quintal. “Last year, we sold chia worth Rs. 19 lakh. This year, we have plans of producing 30 tonnes by engaging 300 farmers. Already, many companies have come forward to buy the produce. CFTRI (Central Food Technological Research Institute) has supported us with its agro-technology for chia,” said Raitha Mitra founder Kurubur Shanthakumar, who also heads the Sugarcane Growers’ Association.
Treading with care
He told The Hindu that as many as 1,000 farmers from places such as Davangere, Belagavi, Yadgir, Chitradurga, Bagalkot and other districts, which are in the grip of an agrarian crisis, have sought seeds and support to cultivate the drought-resistant chia, whose cost of cultivation too is low.
“We cannot assure all the farmers marketing support as we are also new in this business and gradually making progress. We are treading carefully as we don’t want to take major risks and create a crisis as the ‘black chia’ grown by H.D. Kote farmers had remained unsold [last year],” he said.
Chia is known for its nutraceutical values as its seeds contain 30-35 per cent of oil that is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Raitha Mitra company has set up a processing plant at Hootagalli near here to ensure that farmers get the best price.
Two high-yielding varieties — CHIAampion W-83 and CHIAmpion B-1 — have been developed by CFTRI.
Last year, we sold chia worth Rs. 19 lakh. This year, we plan to produce
30 tonnes by engaging 300 farmers.
Founder, Raitha Mitra Farmers’ Producers’ Company