Andean quinoa: More costly than you'd expect
By Rachel Chase. November 18, 2013 in PERU THIS WEEK
“The golden grain”:http://www.peruthisweek.com/noticias-de-quinoa-5726?pid=3’s boom has led to conflict and violence In Bolivia and high prices across the region.
Quinoa, the trendy sweetheart food of first world hipsters everywhere, is getting a lot of press these days. 2013 was declared the International Year of Quinoa by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, and offbeat foodies everywhere have taken to quinoa with a surprising enthusiasm.
However, quinoa has become such a premium commodity that it’s becoming unaffordable even for the farmers that grow it. And because of those high prices, Bolivian farmers have become entangled in land disputes that sometimes turn violent.
According the The Guardian, the price of quinoa has tripled since 2006, which has made it an unrealistic candidate for staple food among groups that used to rely on the protein-rich pseudo grain for sustenance. A January investigation by The Guardian revealed that quinoa was more expensive than chicken in Lima.
Speaking to Time magazine, Bolivian farmer Benjamin Huarachi commented on the extreme shift in the world’s perception of quinoa. “Quinoa was always comida para los indios [food for Indians],” said Huarachi, adding “Today it’s food for the world’s richest.”
Local leader in one of Bolivia’s quinoa-rich regions, Carlos Nina, told Time “Sure, the price of quinoa is increasing, but so are our problems.”
Time reports that land disputes in the area have become common, as farmers try desperately to expand their fields to cultivate more and more quinoa. In February of 2012, one of these disputes turned violent, leading to kidnappings and serious injuries for involved parties. Furthermore, farmers have sold off their llama herds in order to reclaim herding ground as land for growing quinoa. While that doesn’t sound like much of a problem in and of itself, keep in mind that llama manure is one of the best fertilizers for the generally poor soil of the high plains where quinoa flourishes. This has led to worrying environmental problems as farmers deplete the soil in their rush to produce more quinoa.