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Popularity of Quinoa

Prior to quinoa’s surge in popularity, few Americans had heard of this South American grain. U.S. imports alone quadrupled between 2006 and 2010 as quinoa’s virtues of versatility and high protein content spread.

Unbeknownst to the public, quinoa production had a direct impact on the levels of poverty in Peru. So, soon after quinoa “took off,” a slew of inflammatory articles in 2013 reprimanded quinoa consumers for raising the demand and price of the nutritious food, which restricted access for poor Andean people.

Poverty in Peru and Bolivia affects over 50 percent of people in the Andean region. Many suffer from lack of education, food insecurity, poor health care and a life expectancy 20 years lower than people in Lima.

Due to conditions in this region, “foreign quinoa consumption is keeping locals from a staple grain” is a serious accusation. However, the popularity of this protein-rich food has provided many economic benefits for the area. A NPR study showed how living conditions drastically improved for people in the Andes during the boom in quinoa sales.

In 2013, the Guardian published an inflammatory article called, “Can Vegans Stomach the Unpalatable Truth About Quinoa?” claiming that fame has driven the prices so high that locals can no longer afford it. The argument seemed sound as poverty in Peru is a major issue. It seemed though, that the Guardian brought up a touchy subject–droves of articles then began cropping up both defending and debunking this argument.

The good news is that quinoa prices are still within reach for Peruvians. A recent article from NPR explains two different studies focusing on the super grain: one found that the people in quinoa-growing regions, farmer or otherwise, experienced an economic flourishing that favored farmers and generally overcame any additional quinoa costs; the second study focused on quinoa consumption in the Puno region where 80 percent of Peruvian quinoa is grown.

The author of the second study, a Berkeley graduate student, discovered that people in the Puno region consumed a similar amount of the grain without cutting any valuable nutrients from their diets.

While quinoa is culturally important, it is not a staple crop like rice or maize. On average, only between 0.5 and 4 percent of an average Peruvian family’s budget is spent on quinoa–thus the extra cost is not debilitating. In fact, quite the opposite of debilitation occurred: domestic quinoa consumption tripled in 2013.

While the positive economic effects continue to boost the region, there are reasonable concerns about the sustainability or longevity of quinoa production. Demand has caused farmers to decrease the amount of quinoa varieties grown, as well as reduce llama farming which used to provide fertilizer.

Degradation of soil and biodiversity are also risks of extensive quinoa production. Unfortunately, quinoa’s popularity also attracts competitors, and as other countries began to grow the super grain and supply increases, Peruvian demand falls. Prices are sinking, which is great for frugal, health conscious shoppers but very concerning for Bolivian quinoa farmers.

While unclear how long benefits will last, quinoa’s popularity proves extremely beneficial towards alleviating rural poverty in Peru and Bolivia. In order to extend the grain’s benefits, some organizations are trying to encourage the sale of more varieties of quinoa to conserve biodiversity and renew interest in South American grown grains.

On the positive side, quinoa has provided some temporary relief for those facing poverty in Peru.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Pixabay

quino market
In recent years, international interest in quinoa has exploded—knowledge of the grain’s nutritional dynamism has proliferated, making it a desirable choice in an increasingly health-conscious world. In light of its recent popularity, the UN named 2013 “the international year of quinoa.”

The West, with its new market for quinoa, has largely turned to Bolivia, where the grain has been growing for over 7,000 years in the steppes of the Andes. Originally, the newfound demand for quinoa portended great things for the national economy, which would stand to accrue significant wealth through exporting the super-crop.

However, unforeseen implications of the international quinoa market have engendered a new problem for the Bolivian people: namely, the crop is becoming so expensive that many Bolivians no longer have access to it. In 2000, before the international market for quinoa took off, 100kg of quinoa cost about 80 Bolivianos ($11.60 USD). Today, prices have risen nearly ten-fold: 100 kg of quinoa now costs around 800 Bolivianos ($115 USD), and prices continue to rise.

Tellingly, losing a national dietary staple—particularly one with such prodiguous nutritional value—has devastating effects on local health. Bolivia must work towards intitiatives to subsidize crops for locals, providing them with the invaluable nutritional benefits of quinoa.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: NYTimes , Al Jazeera
Photo: PhotoPin

quinoa
February 20th marked the beginning of the International Year of Quinoa, a project designed to raise awareness of the benefits of quinoa and its ability to bring nutritional security. The project was launched by the United Nations and the Andean community of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to help reach the Millenium Development Goal of reducing world hunger to a half by 2015.

Quinoa contains essential amino acids and vitamins, yet has no gluten. It is easy to grow because of its adaptability to different environments – thriving in below freezing temperatures, as well as altitudes way above sea level. Thus, cultivating quinoa in areas with arid farming conditions and high malnutrition rates is both a possible and effective way to help combat global poverty and improve the standard of living in many countries. During the project’s launch, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon commented that the International Year of Quinoa will act as “a catalyst for learning about the potential of quinoa for food and nutrition security, for reducing poverty.”

Bringing awareness to the value of quinoa worldwide is beneficial not just to the fight against global hunger and poverty, but to quinoa farmers as well. As the price of quinoa rises due to its increased popularity with large companies, farmers that cultivate quinoa will experience higher incomes.

– Angela Hooks

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: NY Times

Quinoa farmers_opt Bolivian President Evo Morales recently appeared before the UN to promote the unusual resilience of the quinoa crop to the international community. Fittingly, President Morales-himself a quinoa farmer-was appointed Special Ambassador by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) following their declaration of 2013  as the “International Year of Quinoa.”

Pronounced correctly as keen-wah, quinoa-a staple in Bolivian and Peruvian diets for years-has the unique ability to grow under the most challenging of conditions; including high altitude, poor soil quality, and low annual rainfall. A distant cousin of both beets and spinach, quinoa has been thrust into the limelight lately as a realistic solution to the chronic food security problems faced by many developing nations. Thus, the FAO hopes to increase awareness and production of the crop by calling for 2013 to be known as “International Year of Quinoa.” Additionally, the high nutrient value and relatively low production costs make even Western European nations such as Italy and the Netherlands keen to make full use of their limited amounts of farmland.

The crop, with more than 120 variations, has been modified and researched for years in an attempt to develop seeds that are best suited for the particular climates and soil characteristics they will encounter abroad. Furthermore, by utilizing these growing technologies the output of a single hectare of quinoa can increase from the traditional 600 kg to over a ton, opening the door to limitless possibilities in regards to global food security and ending word hunger. The quinoa truly is a miracle crop, and deserves the title of having 2013 known as the “International Year of Quinoa.”
Brian Turner

Source UN News

International Year of Quinoa
The year 2013 has been titled “The International Year of Quinoa” by the United Nations and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has named Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, the Special Ambassador for the International Year of Quinoa. So, why is that important?

Quinoa is a semi-cereal, not quite a grain, that is mostly grown in Peru and Bolivia. If you have any “foodie” friends or know any hip cooks, you will probably have heard a lot about quinoa. In fact, the factor of “hipness” may have had a huge part in increasing the popularity of the food, as well as the fact that it has astonishing nutritional value. The UN’s declaration of 2013 being the International Year of Quinoa is part of an effort to further increase the food’s popularity. The real reason that quinoa is being pushed as a popular food is that quinoa is extraordinarily hardy, and is a great source of amino-acids. It is one of the most durable foods on Earth. Quinoa is able to thrive even in semi-arid deserts and the high Altiplano.

Quinoa is now being planted more and more in other harsh climates which span countries like Chad and Niger. While most of the world’s quinoa still comes from Peru and Bolivia, it is gaining ground in other countries. The heightened popularity of the food has increased the average crop value and provided higher income to farmers and local business-owners alike. Hopefully, the popular attention that quinoa is receiving will help consumers make the choice to join in and celebrate the International Year of Quinoa.

Kevin Sullivan

Source: United Nationsl