Superfood farm hope
IT began as a hard- to- pronounce hipster health fad but quinoa may one day make Australia a global superfood superpower.
A worldwide boom in consumption of quinoa ( pronounced KEEN- wah) has sparked interest in growing the high- protein, high- priced cereal in Australia and now agriculture researchers have set up trials around the country to investigate the potential for high- volume local production.
Project leader Richard Snowball, from the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia ( DAFWA), is overseeing tests of quinoa crops in NSW, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
“Early indications suggest quinoa could be an ideal crop, given it’s not a very difficult crop to grow,” said Mr Snowball.
The trial will take three years and while it is early days, Mr Snowball said any eventual Australian quinoa industry would most likely be exportoriented.
Quinoa is already grown in Tasmania and parts of Western Australia but only on a small scale and with limited local processing.
DAFWA has been researching quinoa potential at its Kununurra Research Facility for three years and facility manager Mark Warmington said results to date are promising.
“Early trials under irrigation have revealed a typical crop produces a yield of between two to three tonnes per hectare,” Mr Warmington said.
“When you factor that in to the current price of quinoa of between $ 1400 and $ 4000 a tonne or more, and the high consumer demand, the future for the crop and growers’ profitability looks bright.”
Western Australia quinoa grower Ashley Wiese, of Australian Grown Superfoods, is not involved in the trial but supported its potential for developing the drought- tolerant crop, which is well suited to Australian conditions.
“Although we have commercial plantations it’s only early days and there’s a huge amount we don’t know,” Mr Wiese said.
Quinoa has long been a dietary staple in its home countries of Bolivia and Peru, where 95 per cent of the world’s crop is currently grown.
The cereal has soared in popularity since 2008 – a rise attributed to its endorsement that year by US talk show icon Oprah Winfrey.
And while the United States remains the biggest market for quinoa, imports to Australia more than doubled between 2012/ 13 and 2013/ 14.
Quinoa even appeared on Australia’s new healthy eating pyramid when the chart was revised this year.