The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gerardine Mukeshimana, said that it is not yet clear whether the money that investors gave to Akenes and Kernels Ltd to invest in chia seeds farming was used for that purpose.
Gerardine Mukeshimana made the remarks on November 22, during a meeting that convened stakeholders in the chia seed value chain, including farmers, government officials, and Akenes and Kernels Ltd – a company engaged in chia seed business.
She said that there is a difference between the farmers who bought seeds, grew and supplied chia seeds to Akenes and Kernels Ltd, and the people who gave the company money so that it carries out farming on their behalf and pays them money with a profit.
“The business of the farmer who grew and supplied chia seeds to the company’s warehouse is understandable, and we accept it,” she said, pointing out “their issues will be addressed”.
But, for the people who gave their money and had hope that Akenes and Kernels will pay them with a return on investment, but he did not give them the profit in the due time, she said she thinks the first thing the two people should do is to meet and agree on payment modalities.
“This the case because there is no proof that the money they gave was invested in chia seed farming,” she said.
Mukeshimana indicated that when the company wrote to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources to help it negotiate chia seed prices, she requested it to show the money it received, and the amount that was spent on chia seed farming in order to know what the investor’s money was used for, which she said it has not yet done.
“That is why we established the Government technical team so that it makes an in-depth analysis for us to know the truth about what is being said, to establish whether the money you gave was invested in chia seeds, and how much was not put in chia seeds, and how can that be handled,” she said.
“You cannot tell me that the money was invested in chia seed and I just believe that, until I get evidence that it is the case,” she remarked.
Data from Akenes and Kernels Ltd suggests that overall, the company has been working with about 6,600 out-growers (farmers who grew the crop), and about 1,800 stakeholders (that gave the company money to grow the crop for them under contract farming).
It indicated that the company owes about Rwf15 billion in outstanding chia seed amount, including an estimated Rwf900 million to out-growers for their Season A of 2022 produce, and Rwf14 billion the company has to pay to the stakeholders (for contract farming).
The company indicated that the investment needed for the crop ranged from Rwf1.2 million to Rwf1.7 million per hectare — with the variation depending on factors such as some soils requiring lime to improve their fertility, and irrigation — while the income was Rwf3 million within four months (a season).
Euphronie Kamagaju and Charles Kamanzi, are among the people who gave money to Akenes and Kernels to grow chia seeds on their behalf under contract farming.
They said that the Government should take over the company so that when the chia produce that is in its warehouse is sold, be used to pay the people it owes money for the supply of this commodity.
“I realise that the issues that Akenes and Kernels has with us are beyond its capacity. People are hungry, children are unable to go to school because of the issue of Akenes and Kernels. I think that the Government should take over it,” Kamagaju said.