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30 March 2011
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AP – In this photo taken Oct. 25, 2010, a man cleans quinoa grain in Pacoma, Bolivia.

An article in the New York Times (Quinoa’s Global Success Creates Quandary at Home) on the growing popularity of quinoa outside Bolivia, a major producer country of this native Andean chenopod grain, has sparked this interesting discussion (The quinoa story: it’s complicated). Among other things, this  seem to suggest that demand for quinoa in international markets is contributing to malnutrition in producer countries, as price hikes render quinoa unaffordable for the poor. This is rather implausible. Well before the recent quinoa craze, quinoa consumption among the urban poor in producer countries has been very low or non-existent, and quinoa has not been very popular in rural households producing the crop for commercial purposes. If anything, the growing fame of quinoa as a foreign exchange earner and the news of its nutritional excellence are likely to stimulate consumption in producer countries. Previously unavailable in restaurants, quinoa has now been discovered by high-end eateries in Lima, Peru. Because of the export boom, the grain is featured in national media, which will eventually lead to greater popularity and awareness of culinary/nutritional benefits. We have seen it before with other Andean crops: it was international interest in yacon and maca that has brought back these crops from the brink of extinction into the nutritional mainstream.

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