Quinoa Baby Boomer Business
I love to eat quinoa, but another bright side to quinoa is that small businesses around the world are catching on to this cash crop. Quinoa is pronounced kiːnwɑː (Chenopodium quinoa) – and most of you already know it as a very nutritional food all around. It’s actually related to beets and spinach than to cereals or grains.
Quinoa is a relatively complete protein source with many of the essential amino acids required for good nutrition. Also, it is gluten free –some people call it a “super food.”
I have written about quinoa in a previous blog. And you can learn more about the nutritional benefits here.
We have the ancient Andean culture to thank for quinoa. Andeans had cultivated it for thousands of years before the Spanish arrived. An important component to Hispanic culture is the ability to use and apply many good things from other cultures and make them your own. Quinoa is one of those examples.
Quinoa, as a small cash crop business, is catching on around the world. Quinoa production plays an important role in the Latin American economy, particularly in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador which are the major exporters in that order.
The Economics of Quinoa
Quinoa is less expensive in the Andean countries compared to the rest of the world, although some claim that the demand for this “super food “ has driven the cost up in those same countries.
Some claim that the rise in quinoa consumption has hurt local Andean farmers, but that explanation seems a bit too simplistic. The Guardian published one such explanation entitled: “Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?”
And also in the Technorati an article entitled: “Quinoa Not As Keen, If You’re Peruvian.”
You may see a bit more balanced article about quinoa production in an article in Slate magazine entitled: “It’s Okay To Eat Quinoa.”
An analysis by Emma Banks for the Andean Information Network responds to many of these quinoa questions with a nuance largely absent from the press reports. “The impact of rising food prices is complex and encompasses food security and sovereignty debates. . .”
Banks writes. “Food security and sovereignty are ever evolving – neither term has a universal definition or scale of reference. Food security, at the most basic level, implies an adequate food supply to give all people proper nutrition. Proponents of food sovereignty, on the other hand, affirm that small producers and consumers should have influence in shaping food policy.”
But some generalizations can be made. Banks writes: “Quinoa fetches a guaranteed high price affording farmers economic stability. This economic power has also translated into political power though producers’ associations and cooperatives. Since the 1970’s, these organizations have worked toward greater producer control of the market, spurring other political actions such as blockades and protests for greater economic and environmental rights in quinoa-growing regions.”
Relevant to the food security discussion, though absent in all of the recent quinoa press coverage, is the fact that, as Banks notes, “Bolivian government nutrition programs have begun to incorporate quinoa into school breakfast and new mothers’ subsidies. . .” Similar programs are underway in Peru.
And still another article in the Huffington Post, entitled “Quinoa Boom Puts Stress On Bolivian Economics, Environment,” indicates that the current global demand for quinoa has placed stress on the natural Andean ecosystem by many farmers converting to quinoa planting in traditional grazing lands for llamas. Bolivian President Evo Morales cautioned farmers for taking such understandable but drastic moves to take advantage of higher price.
Nevertheless, “Morales said at U.N. headquarters Wednesday that ‘it’s not true that due to an increase in the price of quinoa less and less is being consumed’ in Bolivia. . . Domestic consumption is actually up threefold in the past four years, he said, to 12,000 metric tons.”
The article goes on to say: “Bolivia’s deputy minister of rural development, Victor Hugo Vasquez, said 30 percent of his country’s 70,000 quinoa producers are now children of peasants who left the farm but have been drawn back by high quinoa prices.
Peru, in the meantime, raised its production to 43,640 metric tons last year from 29,640 tons in 2009 and exported $30 million worth, up 20 percent from the previous year.
Duane Johnson, a former Colorado state agronomist who helped introduce quinoa to the United States three decades ago, said quinoa can be commercially planted and harvested just like grain.
“It’s just the size of millet,”said Johnson, who now lives in Bigfork, Montana. “I think the problem you get into in South America is getting enough land to justify a combine.”
When he was growing quinoa in the late 1980s, the United States accounted for 37 percent of the world’s quinoa crop, Johnson said. “Today, it has about 2 percent,” he said.
“The United Nations has designated 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa. . . The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization believes quinoa can make an important contribution to global food security and fighting hunger.”
The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service reports that quinoa production has increased by over 800% in Peru, the number one exporter of the “super grain.” The report states:
|”Demand from developed countries has doubled the price of quinoa in the last five years. The average export price in 2007 was $1,308 per MT to $2,882 per MT in 2012. Prices of colored quinoas are even higher, red quinoa for example sales as high as $4,500 per MT.”Here are some stats: Peru’s Quinoa Exports|
Quinoa Global Production Expansion
So the trend seems to indicate that market will expand. Perhaps this “super food” will become even cheaper, although it remains to be seen how the quality may change with the different soils around the globe.
It also remains to be seen if the crop can be massed produced like soy or corn. Especially since in the U.S.A. farmers are reluctant to switch from a known crop like soybeans and corn, to a new crop with unknown outcomes.
Quinoa Baby Boomer Business
This presents both a challenge and opportunity for small business owners. If quinoa does not lend itself to mass production on a corporate scale, then the opportunity is there for small businesses to pick up the slack.
An article entitled: “Quinoa should be taking over the world. This is why it isn’t,” proposes that global growth of quinoa production is not a sure thing given lots of variables both natural and man-made. So that’s the rub. It’s both a challenge and an opportunity.
Some day you might grow some in your backyard or even in a potted planter. You may decide to create an income stream by organizing your own production whether you’re in Latin America or the U.S.A.
My friend Sandra from South Africa has an incredible “green thumb.” I have seen it first hand. You should see the size of squash she can grow in the mountains. Quinoa may be another crop she tries. If it can be done, Sandra can do it.
The full impact of quinoa on the global economy and food supply still remains unknown, but quinoa has the potential to be a global food source and economic game changer in the long run. This “super food” is no longer a secret, and folks around the world are turning to nutritious quinoa as a cash crop.