Held at BioFach 2014 in Nuremberg, Germany was a seminar and discussion on the future of the (Andean) quinoa market, convened by the Netherlands CBI – Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries – led by Eva Smulder of CBI.
About 50 people from around the world, including processors, traders, and consultants involved in the quinoa sector attended, including representatives from CABOLQUI, Coronilla, Factoria Quinoa, Sierra Exportadora, Euro-Nat, ProFound, Helden Snacks, and CBI staff.
The seminar looked at issues and scenarios highlighting current trends affecting quinoa, bottlenecks and possible scenarios for its future market development.
With quinoa demand growing, with Bolivia and Peru as main exporters and with contradictions in the value chain, the question is what will the quinoa sector be like in the next 10 years.
From the seminar that was part of a study the CBI made recommendations (see Recommendations for Andean quinoa producers and links to the full study).
Four key trends were first discussed:
* Increasing quinoa consumption in foreign markets, a 70% increase in EU imports in 2013 and 50% increase in imports in the USA, with more people in the South American middle class also consuming now quinoa.
* Increasing production in the “Altiplano”, the highland plains of Bolivia and Peru, where producers, cooperatives and companies are working hard to increase production in a difficult climate, changing traditional ways of farming, such as the use of more tractors and harvesting machines to produce more quinoa affecting a fragile eco-system. Production outside the Altiplano at lower latitudes and flat lands has also increased.
* New product development based on quinoa, research results in new varieties and production models: Many varieties of quinoa that can be grown in different climates, including Canada and Australia and more production such as in France. The market has seen many new value added products such as syrup, flour, snacks, plus products with quinoa as ingredient such as soups, burgers, smoothies and baby food.
* Increasing quinoa prices, a sensitive subject for traders in the Andes and elsewhere, while for the first time the farmers are getting a larger proportion of the export prices. Import price of Bolivian quinoa per tonne, at 2012-13 prices jumped from $3190 to $7000 per tonne in 2014.
Recommendations for Andean quinoa producers
The extensive CBI – Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries – study of the Andean quinoa sector reveals that the market potential of quinoa is huge and that stakeholders in the sector will have to join forces.
According to the new CBI study, spiralling demand for functional and healthy foods in western markets has fuelled the spectacular growth of quinoa imports. However, this increased demand will challenge the Bolivian and Peruvian quinoa sector because production will have to increase substantially to meet it. This, in turn, could lead to land conflicts and soil degradation.
In the study, based on desk research and focus group meetings, CBI has developed four possible scenarios for the Andean quinoa sector during the next 10 years: (1) a fivefold increase in quinoa consumption; (2) the collapse of the market for quinoa from the Andean region; (3) a fiftyfold increase in the demand and production of quinoa; (4) thanks to its potential and nutritional value, food processing companies will find many new applications for quinoa.
Clearly, the market potential of quinoa is attractive and its future growth is beyond doubt. The only question is how fast the market will grow and how big it will become. It won’t become as big as rice, wheat or other staple foods, but in the long run quinoa’s position could compare with that of speciality rice, such as basmati or couscous.
The rate at which the quinoa market will grow depends largely on whether production will keep up with demand. In the traditional Altiplano region it will not, and the pressure to step up production could increase the likelihood of a collapse. Regions like the Bolivian valleys and lowlands and the Peruvian coastal region are more suited to large-scale quinoa production so they could produce larger quantities of conventional quinoa for mainstream markets.
The CBI study will help farmers, importers, exporters, support organisations and policy-makers in the quinoa sector develop a strong and sustainable value chain. Its main recommendation is that to avoid losing their current unique position Andean stakeholders must join forces. Producers there will also have to distinguish themselves with “super quinoa”, which is an attractive proposition for traditional producers. Coordination and collective action is essential for sustainable production in the long term, good industry and chain relationships, and a stable market share for Andean “super grain”.
By Warren Beaumont