Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (REU)

Exotic quinoa makes its debut in Central Asia

Photo: ©FAO / Omurbek Mambetov Quinoa – an ancient food plant indigenous to Latin America – will soon be blossoming in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The new quinoa plants appear to be quite comfortable in the pilot plots where they are growing. Under good crop management at the L. Murodov Farm in Tajikistan, for example, the plants are already over two metres tall. Only one plot had to be reseeded, in the Osh province of Kyrgyzstan, when the young plants took a beating from heavy rainfall.

According to the experts, quinoa does not need to be pampered. The plants should be watered a few times before the blossom period, but after that their water requirement drops. 

The seeds for this initiative arrived late, reaching Central Asia in late May and missing the optimal planting time of late-March to mid-April. But the plants (Puno, Titicaca and Regalona types) have been thriving just the same.

FAO international expert Cataldo Pulvento, together with FAO national consultants, visited pilot farms in the northern and southern parts of both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to check the quinoa’s progress under different climatic conditions.

“What we saw in these plots made us optimistic and confirmed the belief that quinoa will do well in Central Asia,” said Cataldo. “The plants are developing well and will give a good crop.”   

In addition to assessing the quinoa’s progress, the FAO experts provided advice and training to farmers on how to care for quinoa in order to get best results. 

Cultivated for thousands of years in South America, quinoa only crossed the Atlantic to Europe in the 21st century. Today, Europeans are paying pay more and more attention to this unique, nutrient-rich food. Three farms in Italy sowed quinoa in their fields for the first time this spring.

According to Cataldo, farmers in Central Asia will never have problems marketing their quinoa because of unlimited demand on world markets. Quinoa is increasingly found on the menus of elite European restaurants. It also used in medicine and cosmetics.   

The quinoa test plots in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are part of FAO pilot projects in the two countries. Plans for 2015 include introduction of new quinoa varieties, seed multiplication, and training in quinoa processing. Seeds of new varieties will be delivered to the region from Bolivia and other countries. 

14 July 2014, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

  • Photo:  ©FAO / Omurbek Mambetov

  • Photo:  ©FAO / Omurbek Mambetov

  • Photo:  ©FAO / Omurbek Mambetov

  • Photo:  ©FAO / SEC

  • Photo:  ©FAO / Omurbek Mambetov