FAO’s Food Outlook focuses on developments affecting global food and feed markets, with comprehensive assessments and forecasts on a commodity by commodity basis.
This issue includes a special section on quinoa, examining the fundamentals of this ancient Andean crop with has the potential to become an important new food commodity. The growing global demand and booming exports from Bolivia and Peru have benefitted smallholder producers, but also present a challenge as market dynamics change.
Until the year 2000, the volume of global trade in quinoa was modest, less than 2.000 tonnes per year. Since then, world exports have expanded rapidly, especially during the last seven years, from approximately 5.000 tonnes to 40.000 tonnes. In 2012, 64 percent of the total was supplied by Bolivia, followed by Peru with 26 percent. Bolivia’s exports grew steadily from 10.000 tonnes in 2007 reaching 26.000 tonnes in 2012. In the same period, the value of quinoa exports grew six fold: from USD 13.1 million to USD 78.9 million.
Peru registered even stronger export growth, in particular after 2009, mostly in response to dynamic demand from the United States. Peru’s quinoa shipments increased from 1.300 tonnes, valued at USD 1.8 million, in 2007, to 10.000 tonnes, valued at USD 29.9 million, in 2012.
The report concludes that in the future quinoa could play a more important role in the global food system, given its adaptability to different agro-ecological regions and superior nutritional qualities. However, in the short term, the high price of this product, which has thus far catered to the niche market of health-conscious consumers in high-income countries, will preclude the expansion of consumption in poor countries. Given the current export price of over USD3 000 per tonne, quinoa cannot compete with other food crops such as rice, which is quoted approximately five times lower on international markets. In the short run, the growing consumption in developed countries will continue to be satisfied by exports from Bolivia and Peru. In the longer term, productivity increases are expected to take place not only in the Andean producing countries but also in the new producing areas, where investments are being made to cultivate the crop for commercial purposes. The current plans to expand quinoa production are expected to translate into much larger world supplies and declining prices at the producer, consumer and international levels,
which may alter the current dynamics driving the crop. However, it remains to be seen whether quinoa will ever become a major and world-wide staple.