The  United  Nations has declared 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa” and  its  official launch  took place on February 20th at its headquarters in New York City.  Several events will be organized around the world in an attempt to increase public awareness of  the   value  of this ancient South American super food from the Andean highlands. As part of the celebration Cabolqui, Bolivia’s Chamber of Royal Quinoa and Organic Products Exporters, prepared an ambitious 4-day agenda where recognized international quinoa traders, processors, researchers, aid agencies,  government officials and the media learned about and  discussed current  and future strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats concerning the Bolivian Royal quinoa sector. The program included a business match for quinoa and other Bolivian organic products, a gastronomic festival during the opening ceremony, technical and  field visits to  the  main production   zones  such   as the magnificent Uyuni Salt Flats, dynamic presentations in a pleasant and proactive atmosphere for friendship and networking opportunities. Visitors from several countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark Germany, Japan, Peru and the United States came to La Paz March 23-26 to take part in this memorable event.

Quinoa is the only plant food with all essential amino acids, vitamins and trace elements and is resistant to extreme growing conditions: poor soils, the presence of drought and high  salinity, a  temperature range  of  -8  to  38  degrees Celsius and an altitude from sea  level to  four  thousand meters. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), this  “super food,” harvested since  Pre-Colombian  times for  its nutritional value and adaptability, may  contribute to  world food  security and the   eradication  of  hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

“Never before, in the history of quinoa in Bolivia and abroad, was there  a  gathering with the sector’s most well known actors that have dedicated their work, life, efforts and resources to   this   amazing  Bolivian and Andean food that is the Royal Bolivian Quinoa”, said Javier Fernandez, president of Cabolqui and ceo of Andean Valley, a  chamber member. “It is a matter of pride for Bolivia to share with the world a food with high nutritional value. It  is allergen-free  and enjoys adaptation capabilities to adverse growing conditions, is  produced  following strict organic farming practices and has the potential to reduce the level s  of  undernourishment and hunger in the world”. Today, quinoa is cultivated in other Andean and non Andean countries.   “The   challenge for Bolivia is to  remain the main producer, consumer and exporter of authentic Royal Quinoa in the world”, said Mr. Fernandez. “We need investment in technologies and improved farming practices that  will allow a  sustainable production of quinoa, increasing volumes to control prices and  protect our  seeds from genetic manipulation and the use of hybrid seeds which is what is happening in other parts of the world”.

“Our ancestors left us a legacy in quinoa. They mastered good farming practices that we cannot forget”, said Mr. Víctor Hugo  Vásquez Mamani, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. Until  thirty years ago the only quinoa consumers were the native Andean people. Today quinoa is served at the King of Spain’s table, at the White House and the best restaurants around the world. We should be proud of this accomplishment”. Contrary to some recent comments in the media that  suggest the West is  robbing the  quinoa  from the  children in  Bolivia, Mr. Vasquez Mamani  said  that 3-4 years ago local quinoa consumption was 0.35 Kg per capita. Last year Bolivians increased quinoa consumption to 1.1 Kg per capita. “Three years ago Bolivia exported 8 thousand  tonnes  of  quinoa; 26 thousand tonnes last year”. Bolivia expects to  increase sustainable production of quinoa to one thousand tonnes by 2025.