Spend Matters welcome this guest article by Loraine Hudson of Mintec.
You may not have often heard of it, but this little known cereal has big ideals associated with it, having been reported as part of the solution to world hunger. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is an ancient grain-type cereal that has been growing in popularity over the past few years in the US and Europe due to its health benefits. It has been dubbed a super-food as it contains more protein than brown rice, potatoes or barley, is gluten free and is packed with vitamins and minerals. It can be used in similar ways to other grains for bread, noodle and breakfast products.
The current quinoa craze started as far back as 2008 when Oprah Winfrey included the grain in her “21 day cleanse diet.” Its popularity increased sharply when the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) deemed 2013 “International Year of Quinoa,” educating more of the world to its benefits.
Two countries supply the majority of the world with quinoa - Bolivia and Peru account for over 95% of global production. The cereal is grown in cool, arid areas of the Andes where little else grows. The plant can grow in almost any soil but only certain conditions will allow the seed to develop. It can take up to a few years to establish new growing areas. As the international demand grew, so did the efforts of farmers to increase their acreage to cope with demand, but the slow speed of acreage growth was reflected in the increase in price.
In 2007, Peru harvested a little less than 81,540 acres of quinoa, but in 2015 it is expected to harvest about 137,900 acres. In Bolivia, that area has grown from just over 123,550 acres to over 370,000 in the same period. Peru is expected to be the major exporter in 2015, with exports rising to 40,000 tonnes out of a total production of 108,000 tonnes, up 17% year-over-year. The US is the main destination with 55% of exports going to the US in 2015.
The recent drop in prices is due in part to increasing supply from Peru and Bolivia, but also from other countries that have been encouraged by the high prices and increased demand to start growing quinoa. For the US market, Canada is seeing the most success where acreage has risen from just about 4,000 acres to over 12,000 in 2014.