Chia seeds are a healthy ingredient used in desserts, smoothies, breakfast cereals, bread, snacks and many other products. The European Union approved chia seed as Novel Food in 2009, allowing the chia to be marketed in its territory. In only 10 years’ time, the market has experienced fast development.
The major producing countries of chia seeds are Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and Uganda. Few other countries like Nicaragua, Ecuador, Australia, Kenya produce a small quantity of chia seeds as well. The following analysis is based on an analysis of customs data available from Eurostat.
Volume of imports
In 2018, European import volume dropped to 17914 tons (Figure 1). This is the first drop in annual import volume since the emergence of the market in 2009. The imports peaked in 2017, at 19175 tons. The data confirm our earlier finding based on monthly figures published 30 January 2019. The chia market has clearly reached a ceiling. This fits nicely in the peak seed hypothesis, proposed recently by Rabobank. However, the import figures do not tell us directly how consumption is developing. Part of the difference in imports may be explained by carry-over stocks. Nevertheless, the figures show that the fast growth of the market has stopped.
Figure 1: Chia imports in ton per year, 2014-2018
Value of imports
The value has been increasing year by year from 2014 to 2017. But in the year 2018, the value decreased by 3.2 million euros, reaching 39.7 million euros (Figure 2). As for volume, the peak was reached in 2017, at 42.8 million euro. After the amazing growth rate of 66% in 2015, the growth rate has gradually declined: +38% in 2016, 14% in 2017 and -7% in 2018.
Figure 2: Import value in 1000 euros, 2014 to 2018
European import markets
In 2018, Germany and Netherlands are the biggest importers of chia in the European Union. Together they account for 55% of the total European imports (Figure 3). Compared to last year (2017), Dutch imports increased by 4% and Germany imports decreased by 6%. The UK comes in 3rd position and it accounts for 11% of total European Imports. Spain, Italy, Poland, Austria, France are other importers of chia seeds in the European Union.
Figure 3: Share of importing countries in total EU imports, by volume, 2018
Suppliers to the European market
Nearly 49% of total exports by volume is supplied by Paraguay and Bolivia (Figure 4). They are also the world leaders in producing chia seeds. Next to them, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Australia, and Uganda occupy the other 50% of the European imports by volume.
Figure 4: Share of supplying countries in total exports to the EU, by volume, 2018
in 2018, Mexican and Ugandan exports to Europe increased by 10% and 29% respectively and exports of Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru have decreased by 3%, 5%, 4%, and 6%. Uganda is a newcomer to the chia market, with first exports registered in 2015, supplying 2400 tons in 2018.
Figure 5: Development of import value by supplying country, in €1000, 2014-2018