This Mexican crop is now a favourite with farmers

Thanks to the handsome returns that Chia gave last year, farmers in Mysuru and other districts are switching over to the crop

April 13, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:44 am IST - MYSURU:

Cash crop:Chia is gaining popularity as a ‘super food’ across the world because of its rich protein content.— file photo

Cash crop:Chia is gaining popularity as a ‘super food’ across the world because of its rich protein content.— file photo

Farmers in some parts of the State are successfully growing high-energy foods like Chia, which is fetching them handsome returns in these times of agrarian crisis.

Chia is a plant of Mexican and South American origin and is known for its nutraceutical values. The best part of Chia is that its seeds contain about 30-35 per cent of oil. It is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids and is gaining popularity as a ‘super food’ across the world because of its rich protein content.

Given the proven potential of the crop, many farmers are now going for this super food. Thanks to the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), which introduced farmers to the crop and also offered technical support for its cultivation, the area of cultivation of Chia is expected to rise in the coming days.

The Raitha Mitra Farmers’ Producers’ Company, an entity of farmers, those who grew Chia got great returns. This has been a strong point for others to follow suit, said farmer leader Kurubur Shanthkumar, the founder-chairman of the company.

Mr. Shanthkumar, who himself grew Chia at his farm, told The Hindu that the company, which consists of over 2,000 farmers, had offered Rs. 25,000 a quintal to Chia growers last year even before the crop was raised, and the sum was paid when the crop was harvested.

Deal with companies

Companies that export Chia bought the produce from the company after entering into an understanding with it, he explained. “Despite a moderate drop in the price of Chia in the international market, the farmers were offered the price they had been promised,” he said. More than 100 farmers in Mysuru, Chamarajanagar and Haveri districts grew Chia last year, and the number is expected to rise this year.

The company has set up a processing plant at Hootagalli in Mysuru. “Over seven tonnes of processed Chia was bought from us by the companies (last year) and exported to countries like Singapore and Malaysia,” Mr. Shanthkumar said.

Two high-yielding varieties — CHIAampion W-83 and CHIAmpion B-1 — were developed by CFTRI.

Ready-to-eat ‘super foods’

Meanwhile,even as the cultivation of ‘super foods’ like Chia is gaining popularity in this part of the region, the Mysuru-based Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) has developed ready-to-eat foods from Chia and other super foods like Teff and Quinoa.

A wide variety of ready-to-eat foods, made from these high-nutrient grains, has been developed by the scientists, who recently displayed them at the ‘Open Day’ of CFTRI here. Farmers had visited the campus on the day and tasted the products.

The Chia Story

This crop of Mexican origin requires less water and is drought-resistant

But rain can harm the crop during flowering

Farmers can get two Chia crops in one year as it can be harvested in three months

Chemicals and pesticides cannot be used as the seeds cannot be washed, unlike other grains. Therefore, processing should be done well by adopting higher standards

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