The expansion of quinoa production

The article “The Global Expansion of Quinoa: Trends and Limits” published in Frontiers in Crop Science sketches the expansion of quinoa production, with a focus on the distribution of germ plasm. Based on a mini survey among experts, the authors Didier Bazile, Sven-Erik Jacobson and Alexis Verniau present interesting data on testing and breeding of quinoa, important factors for the expansion of the crop. The first experiment with quinoa recorded outside the Andes took place in Kenya in 1935 and such tests have continued ever since in many other countries. Commercial quinoa production took place in Canada in the 1980s. The number of countries growing the crop has increased rapidly from eight in 1980, to 40 in 2010, and to 75 in 2014. A further 20 countries have sown quinoa for the first time in 2015.

Collections of germ plasm exist outside the Andes and are used for breeding and testing and being exchanged with others. However, a large part of the genetic variety is collected in the traditional producing countries and is not easily shared. It is argued that legal impediments constrain the exchange of germ plasm and thus complicate the further expansion of the crop. Nevertheless, quinoa is now being cultivated or tested in 95 countries of the world. The expansion of quinoa testing and production was boosted by the International Year of Quinoa in 2013, often with the support from FAO.

At Mercadero we have been following the expansion of this so-called underutilised crop as well, since it can provide benefits to farmers, processors and consumers. On the other hand, we are concerned that the original producers in Bolivia and Peru will be left empty-handed, with so many competitors entering the scene.