Quinoa's Price Problem Hits Hungry

Given the whole grain's rising popularity, poorer communities are no longer able to afford the staple

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Last week, the UN officially named 2013 the year of quinoa, and while the health benefits of the whole grain are laudable, the Guardian points out that quinoa's popularity does have some downsides.

Noting the price increase in quinoa, Joanna Blythman writes that an ethical dilemma enters the picture when discussing quinoa. As prices increase, and as growers export their product, locals in quinoa-producing areas are no longer able to afford their once-staple grain.

The price of the "miracle grain of the Andes" has tripled since 2006, meaning poorer communities at risk of starvation in Peru and Bolivia must find their nutrition elsewhere. In Lima, for example, the price of quinoa is higher than chicken.

"It's beginning to look like a cautionary tale of how a focus on exporting premium foods can damage the producer country's food security," Blythman writes. In another example, the increase in Peruvian asparagus production has also taken up much of the water resources locals depended on.

Luckily, the UN is looking to increase quinoa production elsewhere, increasing supply and potentially lowering costs. How a price decrease will hit the farmers, however, has yet to be shown.

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