Where the quinoa went

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.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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4 Responses to Where the quinoa went

  1. EqFe says:

    Bolivia, like it’s neighbor Peru is a difficult place to farm a varied diet. You have high elevation that’s perfect for growing a few crops like potatoes, quinoa and coca bushes, and the lower elevation tropical climates where a greater variety of plants can be grown. The genius of the Inca, was getting the food where it was needed.

  2. Pingback: Family farming | Science on the Land

  3. Pingback: The Quinoa Challenge (and Other Food Dilemmas) | Science on the Land

  4. LA Rosen says:

    The economics of this anti-quinoa buying article don’t make sense. If it’s popular and in-demand globally, then the price for the crop goes up and the poor rural farmer makes more money, with which he can buy nutritious food for his family. Because the farmer also makes more than in the past, when demand was low, he can afford to keep and eat some of this nutritious crop, because he does not need every seed to be sold to make as much as before demand drove prices up. Demand for a crop is good, it gives more money even to small growers and should improve their quality of life. You don’t tell a farmer, you were better off when no one wanted your crop and you got so little for it you had to eat it and could afford nothing else. The fact that their government (and ours) feeds cheaper, unhealthy food products (such as refined wheat) to their impoverished population is a separate issue. But, I’ll bet there are fewer impoverished quinoa farmers.

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