LA PAZ – The quinoa industry in Bolivia requires technological advances to reverse a reduction in both output and exports, growers and experts say.
In 2015, Bolivia yielded to Peru the spot of top exporter of quinoa to the United States, while groups representing growers estimate that Bolivian production of the grain could fall from 90,000 tons last year to 40,000 tons in 2016.
“Those figures are still preliminary,” Paula Mejia, general manager of the Bolivian Chamber of Quinoa and Organic Products Exporters, told EFE, adding that even if the forecast proves correct, output would still be sufficient to meet demand for quinoa exports.
Bolivia exported 23,000 tons of quinoa in the first 11 months of last year, down 44 percent by value and 14 percent by volume compared with the same period in 2014.
“The fall in prices reflects a larger supply in global markets, and the drop in volume, that – as has been known – some quinoa producers chose to hold back inventory, awaiting better prices in the future,” government statistics chief Gary Rodriguez told EFE.
Benjamin Martinez, president of the National Quinoa Producers Association, highlighted the industry’s concerns.
“We will need to go to the government” in pursuit of “financing for irrigation,” he told EFE.
Quinoa production, according to Paula Mejia, requires “a technological leap to mechanize sowing, harvesting, everything to do with the irrigation and the drying of the grain.”
Rodriguez advocates “providing growers with training and technology to improve their productivity,” as well as funding for research into “how to shorten the production cycle to make the crop sustainable.”
Quinoa, a grain domesticated in the Andes some 7,000 years ago, is considered sacred by the indigenous people of the Bolivian highlands.
The grain has high nutritional value as a result of the concentration of proteins and hydrates. Quinoa can also grow in dry conditions and at altitudes of up to 4,000 meters (13,115 feet).
Growing awareness of quinoa’s virtues has resulted in a global boom in the grain in recent years.