Bolivia- Quinoa was discovered more than 3,000 years ago in the Andean Mountains in the South American continent. Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru are among the biggest producers and exporters of this grain also known as the Inca people’s Gold, the mother of grains, and the grain of the future.
Quinoa contains many vitamins and minerals. Due to its high nutritional value, it is considered very nutritious.
Until recently, quinoa had been only consumed by indigenous people in the Andes, in regions like Challapata, which is located at an altitude of 3,000 and 800 meters. However, in the past few years, it has also become common in the West, most probably because of the success of the Peruvian cuisine abroad. The United Nations announced 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa”.
It is the day of establishment of the market in Challapata, a small village in the mountains of western Bolivia. There are a few sellers who are preparing to trade quinoa in a pebbled area that equals two football fields, with the ice-covered Andes in the background.
This market was crowded two years ago with sellers carrying their bags of black, yellow and red quinoa, but this scene has changed. Although the people of Challapata can earn huge sums from selling quinoa -which is traditionally cultivated in the country- as its price has saw a remarkable rise in the recent years, quinoa lost its popularity in Challapata. Traditional farmers here cannot compete with bigger traders, who rely heavily on pesticides, and whose increased production has led to a sharp drop in quinoa prices.
World production of Quinoa increased from 60,000 tons 10 years ago to 250,000 tons. Quinoa temporarily boosted growth in Bolivia, but that didn’t last for long. The amount which Bolivia used to receive dropped from $6000 to $2500 per ton.
In Bolivia, indigenous people have been growing quinoa for hundreds of years with their hands, without using pesticides. But Peru has lately overtaken Bolivia in quinoa production. Bolivian farmers have grown quinoa in industrial quantities, and quantity is actually now more important than quality.