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Puno to host World Congress on Quinoa

W. Alejandro Sanchez and Brittney Figueroa

The international conference aims to promote the grain not only as a product to global markets, but as a way to reduce poverty and hunger in Peru’s Andes.

Puno to host World Congress on Quinoa

Quinoa will be celebrated as a multi-faceted Peruvian good (Photo: Pixabay)

Peru will host the VI World Congress on Quinoa and the III International Symposium of Andean Grains on March 21-24, 2017. The event will take place at the Universidad Nacional del Altiplano de Puno in the Puno region of southern Peru. The Congress’s objectives include promoting the nutritional, cultural, and gastronomic aspects of this grain to improve its stance in the global market, and also as a way to “reduce poverty and hunger, particularly in the communities of the high Andes.”

Peru is a global producer of this healthy grain, and is in constant competition with neighboring Bolivia for the title of Biggest Producer. The income gained from quinoa exports, as well as the way it helps promote the “made in Peru” brand across the world, makes the production of this grain a matter of national importance.

Export Numbers – Markets

Data from last year’s quinoa production and exports highlights the importance of this Peruvian crop, with the U.S. being its main destination. According to the Peruvian export association, Adex, between January and August of 2016, the country exported 33,778 tons of quinoa, 36% more than during the same period in 2015. Of this amount, 43% was bought by the U.S., with other destinations being Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. While the developed world continues to favor the grain as part of an ongoing health food craze, Peruvian quinoa is not just for consumption, as it can be utilized to produce cosmetics that Peru aims to export to the Asia Pacific region. Over half a million Peruvians make a living from growing quinoa, according to the Peruvian government.

Meanwhile, Bolivia continues to be a major quinoa producer with exports totaling 25 thousand tons in 2015, and 26 thousand tons in 2016. Moreover, other countries, like France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have their own variations of homegrown quinoa.

While production (in terms of volume) in the latter countries cannot be compared to the Andean states, it still poses a problem, as these are the target export countries for Lima and La Paz. Hence, consumption of locally-grown quinoa decreases the profits the South American countries obtain.

plant
Quinoa plant (Photo: Pixabay)

Another problem is the over-saturation of the market, which could reduce profits across the board. This is already happening in Bolivia, as a January 27, 2017 report in the daily Los Tiempos explained. According to the article, 10% of two thousand Bolivian quinoa growers (members of the national quinoa association ANAPQUI) have stopped growing this crop “due to a fall in the international price and due to a drought.” Although not yet an issue in Peru, the situation in neighboring Bolivia should be of concern for Peruvian quinoa growers as well.

Culinary Diplomacy

A final word should be said about the role of quinoa as a component of a country’s culinary and cultural diplomacy. In 2013, Peru achieved a major victory when the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations declared that year as the International Year of the Quinoa. Peruvian delegations regularly participate in international food fairs, in which different types of quinoa are shown to business owners and the general public. The goal is to not only increase Peruvian exports, (and by default, help the Peruvian state obtain more revenue) but also to establish a globally-known “made in Peru” brand that is associated, in this case, with culinary flavor and richness. Given the saturation of the global quinoa market, it is critical that Peruvian authorities ensure that international consumers regard Peruvian-grown quinoa as the most preferable.

Conclusions

In a 2013 commentary for Blouin News, one author argued, “Peru should embark in an aggressive culinary diplomacy by taking advantage of its rich agricultural resources and well-regarded traditional dishes. Capitalizing on the global craze over quinoa was a well thought-out initiative by the Peruvian government.” Lima has generally followed this suggestion, and the upcoming World Congress on Quinoa and the International Symposium of Andean Grains in Puno should cement a global association between quinoa and Peru. (While not the objective of this analysis, the authors would like to applaud the fact that the congress will take place in Puno, not in the capital, which is a step toward diversifying where international events are held in Peru.)

Quinoa’s importance is multifaceted, not only to Peru, but also to the rest of the world, hence it is commendable that the organizers of the upcoming World Congress include the ministries of Agriculture, Culture, Environment, and Foreign Affairs. The anticipated success of the event will help reaffirm Peru’s position as a global producer of quinoa.

W. Alejandro Sanchez Nieto is an international security analyst. Follow him on Twitter: @W_Alex_Sanchez

Brittney J. Figueroa is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelors degree in Global Studies, and a Minor in Latin American Iberian Studies.

The views presented in this essay are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the authors are associated.

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