Some organic chia seeds are being sold as non-organic at relatively lower prices since the secured certificate to trade the produce expires in February yet there is limited market, it has emerged. This follows the shutting down of a controversial chia seed auction in November 2022. The auction was stopped after the petitioner, Didier Sheja, said to have won a case involving Rwf40 million, agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the debtor, Akenes and Kernels Ltd. Last November, thousands of farmers who supplied chia seeds to Akenes and Kernels Ltd appealed to the Government to halt the auction of 1,000 tonnes of the produce – estimated at Rwf3.6 billion – for which they said the company had not yet paid them. Emmy Nsengiyumva, president of the committee of chia seed farmers in Rwanda, told the New Times that the government and farmers realised that it was better to keep money than storing the produce for long without any guarantee of a better market. It was decided that the organic chia seed yield be sold as non-organic so that the money from sales is used to pay the arrears owed to farmers. So far, Nsengiyumva said, 460 tonnes of chia seeds were sold for about Rwf987 million. He noted that prices fluctuated based on the supply from farmers. All sales, he said, must be certified by the technical team established by the Prime Minister’s Office, and the committee of the chia seed farmers. Of that amount, he indicated, 200 tonnes were bought by an Indian investor in December 2022, at Rwf1,700 a kilo. Another 200 tonnes were bought at $2.3 per kilo by the Royal Al Emarat General Trading LLC (from the UAE) under the already existing market for Akenes and Kernels, while 60 tonnes were bought by a South Sudanese entity at $2.4 per kilo. According to Akenes and Kernels, a kilo of organic chia seeds normally costs between $4 and $7 at the export market. The money from the produce sales, Nsengiyumva revealed, has to be deposited on the account of Akenes and Kernels, on which a transaction warning was put by the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) to prevent any transaction before the amount due is paid to the farmers. The urgency Normally, organic chia seeds fetch higher prices. Its trade is certified by Control Union, an international firm specialised in inspection and certification of organic agricultural products. Talking about why the organic chia seeds were being sold as non-organic, Nsengiyumva said that was due to the fact that the remaining organic chia seed market needed 850 tonnes and will run until the end of February this year. Yet, Akenes and Kernels Ltd, indicated that it had 1,800 tonnes in its warehouse located at the Kigali Special Economic Zone. Nsengiyumva said it is the remaining 950 tonnes that had started being sold as non-organic chia seeds – with 460 tonnes already sold under this arrangement. “This means that if it is not sold as conventional [non-organic], the organic chia seed certificate that will expire in February, it would take a long time to get another annual organic chia seed certificate, and the produce in the store could lose value over time,” he said. Akenes and Kernels estimated, in October 2022, that the 1,800 tonnes of chia seeds then in its store were worth between $10 million and $12 million, roughly between Rwf10.7 billion and Rwf12.8 billion.