Senior officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Justice and Local Government have reassured chia seed farmers whose produce is subject to an auction process that the government would do everything possible to ensure their interests are protected. They made the pledge Tuesday at a meeting in Kigali that drew key stakeholders in the chia seed value chain which sought to address concerns of farmers who fear to lose out in case a standing court order to auction 1,000 tonnes of chia seeds (worth Rwf3.6 billion) is executed. The auction process is the result of a legal battle which a one Didier Shema won against Akenes and Kernels. A court bailiff is in the process of auctioning the produce to be able to raise Rwf40 million the company owes to Shema. Shema is one of some 3,000 chia seed farmers who Akenes and Kernels owe an estimated Rwf22 billion. “We will request MINIJUST (Ministry of Justice) to work with us to protect all farmers involved,” said Gerardine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources. Mbonera Théophile, the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, said the concerned farmers can seek an injunction to block the auction. The law allows for protection of all legitimate interests, he said, adding, however, that the ministry had no powers to stop the court order. “If you think (the produce in question) is yours, you can take legal action and request that the auction be halted,” he said, adding that officials would consult further on the best way forward. Emmy Nsengiyumva, the president of the committee of chia seed farmers in Rwanda, said they were grateful that government institutions had intervened in the matter to ensure that farmers don’t end up losing their money. He urged Akenes and Kernels to file an appeal contesting the auction decision, adding that the farmers were also ready to seek an injunction against the auction process. Meanwhile, Yves Ndayisenga, Chief Finance Officer, Akenes and Kernels, said the company was battling legal cases filed by up to 189 people. He said the seizure of the chia seeds produce, the closure of their offices at the Kigali Special Economic Zone, and action that had rendered them unable to mobilise funding and to engage in financial transactions had paralysed the firm. The Minister of Local Government, Jean Claude Musabyimana, urged the farmers and the company to commit to addressing the issue amicably as opposed to resorting to legal battles.