Chia in the Ord




EVEN with competitive crops and land pressure, after just two years, commercial production of chia in the Kununurra Ord Valley is growing.

And with two thirds of The Chia Company owned by Kununurra growers, future employment opportunities for locals appear promising.


There are currently five Ord farmers growing the grain crop, which occupies 500 hectares of the valley.


Native to Central and South America, chia is being trialled as a nutritious plant-based source in Australia.


It contains one of the richest known plant-based sources of Omega 3 and 6, is rich in protein, fibre, antioxidants and a range of vitamins and minerals.


It also has the ability to regulate sugar intake in diabetic people. 


Company director John Foss said the crop was climate specific and so far Kununurra was the only place in Australia growing chia – with very positive results and harvesting 700 tonnes annually.


Although the maintenance and harvesting of chia has a reasonably low labour requirement, Ord grower Tim Croot said as the crop expanded, jobs would become available. 


“It is a mechanical crop and, whilst it is not very labour intensive, the production will be,” Mr Croot said.


“The cleaning and production stages will be done locally.”


Mr Foss said although it was a relatively new market, it was one with definite growth because of its health benefits.


“And global demand looks like increasing significantly as the product goes into major food companies,” he added.


“Presently the crop is purchased by health companies locally as well as internationally, with the US our biggest importer.


“At present we have enough land, but if the market continues to grow at the current rate we will look for extra growers in the future.”


Mr Croot said chia was an exciting crop that had a great future.


After a successful trial in 2005, The Chia Company began commercial production in 2006.


The crop is specific to the dry season, but holds the soil well during the wet.


“Chia dies when harvested and the stubble is very good at binding the soil, which prevents a lot of damage during the wet season,” Mr Croot said.


“Agronomically, the crop is good for Kununurra, but we are constantly learning.”


The only hurdle left is one shared by many growers – soaring fertiliser prices.


But Mr Croot said the crop was relatively fertiliser efficient.


And like most crops in the valley, the weeds needed spraying during the wet season – but the company did not expect to be hit any worse than most farmers.


“Fertiliser increases are a reality for all farmers.”





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