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Latin American suppliers plan 'Chia Council' to develop business

By Stephen Daniells , 07-Aug-2012
Last updated the 29-Aug-2012 at 10:03 GMT

Suppliers of chia in Latin America are working together to establish a regional organization to provide a safe and transparent framework in which to further develop the chia business.

Sandra Gillot, owner and general manager of BeneXia, one of the major Latin American players, told NutraIngredients-USA that the new organization will have three main goals:

1)      To promote good trade practices by educating customers on the seed, its actual health benefits, the different varieties and qualities; to work together on the  expansion of this particular market and its players,

2)      To centralize all scientific information and coordinate all clinical, food and agricultural research, as well as investigation  and product development and information on the crop;

3)      To collect market data to enable a better organization and communication among  the parties and to create a data base of industry players, proposing an affiliation that will allow new producers to be identified by the organization that would thus act as a self-regulatory entity.

“We estimate this group represents more than 80% of the global production of black and white chia Seeds, organic and conventional,” she said.

The official launch of the organization will occur later this year.

Supply

As reported recently by NutraIngredients , demand for chia is booming, but some South American suppliers have said they are close to exhausting supplies.

While chia demand has been growing for the past decade, Gillot noted that the market didn’t exceeded 2,500 to 3,500 tons per year until two years ago, and these quantities have now doubled. 

A lot of growth is coming from applications such as bakery, yogurts, and, increasingly, beverages, there remains a large demand from the nutraceutical industry. “Demand from the nutraceutical industry continues to increase on a yearly basis,” said Gillot. “In Latin America alone, this market represented US$7.8 billion in 2001 (a 15% increase in the last 3 years).”

Fine balance

With new markets opening – beyond Latin America and North America, demand is increasing from Middle East, Asia and Europe – supply has tightened.  “The balance [between supply and demand] is very delicate when we’re talking about a world production of maybe 5,000 tons per year of good quality seed.”

And the emphasis should be on quality seed, she said, and stressed that buyers need to get educated on the different qualities of chia seed that are available on the market. “Purity, microbial load, physico-chemical and nutritional facts may vary a lot from one supplier to another,” she said. “BeneXia is the only chia that has a Kill Step implemented in its production line.” 

Expansion

Gillot said that BeneXia is augmenting its growing area in Bolivia, and opening activities in Argentina and Paraguay. The company has also other locations in mind. 

“With these expansions underway, we will be able to supply more chia, at the same time the industry will be asking for much more material as the number of innovative chia applications increases by the day, and current applications in food and beverage industries already require big quantities:  bread and yogurt with chia are common applications in some countries, and these products are knowing a growing demand.   

“In any case, in the present market circumstances, we think it will be difficult if not impossible that the supply would be able to address all the needs of everyone. We recommend customers to work very close together with Chia distributors and partners in order to let us make the best possible planning at a production level.”

The main chia producing countries include Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

As reported recently by NutraIngredients-USA , Australia is also emerging as a supplier of the in-demand seed. 

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