Quinoa: trendy abroad, scarce at home

Recently, everyone seems to be talking about the wonders of quinoa. It is commonly but mistakenly thought to be a grain but is actually related to vegetables. It is still relatively expensive here, but can be found in many grocery stores. While we learn about its wonderful nutritional benefits and try to incorporate it in our diet, back in Bolivia where it was first grown, quinoa is a more complex story. Rising prices abroad have diverted more of the quinoa crop for export leaving less for domestic consumption. The domestic price has also gone up and consumers now turn to cheaper alternatives like white rice. Perhaps, the problem could be solved by expanding production but changing consumer preferences (soda instead of quinoa-based drinks) also contributes to limiting production. This story says a lot about the importance of a certain food is perceived. Quinoa is the latest trend so people will pay a premium for it but sodas are new and cool to someone else and they will change over to it from a healthier alternative. Even if we know what food choices we should make as people, as a country and as a planet, perceptions often drive the situation in a whole different direction.

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