Charlie Haynes at the Annals of Botany blog discusses the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s Year of Quinoa. That year was all about rediscovering the neglected crop called quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa). Quinoa is a pseudocereal.
The Year of Quinoa has just ended but Mx Haynes says that it may have been a mixed blessing for Bolivian farmers.
A few days ago I asked, ‘Where did the quinoa go?’ Perhaps it went into privileged mouths. According to Mx Haynes, quinoa became a cash crop for export to rich countries where people have learned to like quinoa but don’t rely on it as a source of protein in our diets. In exchange the poor countries where most quinoa is grown, Peru and Bolivia, got ‘food aid’. That aid was mostly based on refined flour made from wheat (Triticum spp.).
Refined wheat flour is inferior to quinoa as a staple food. Far inferior. Smallholders and their families need proper nutrition, not white pasta and white bread made from taxpayer-subsided production in rich countries.
Mx Haynes isn’t very impressed. ‘Bolivia can take advantage of the sudden swelling of [quinoa] prices due to increased US and European demand and subsidise a greater variety of fruits and vegetables for those below the poverty line. Alternatively it can encourage the rural poor to grow a greater variety of vegetables themselves for dietary variety.
‘But it cannot do both.’
[Edit] Paola Flores at the Huffington Post tells us about how the ‘quinoa boom’ went wrong.