Quinoa : A wonder crop recognised by UN General Assembly
Author: Dr. Smita Shingane Co-authors: Sunil S. Gomashe and Ganapathy, KN

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) is one of the Chenopodium species in Amaranthaceae family. It has got high popularity in recent past due to its nutritional superiority and high value mainly in nontraditional areas of the world (Europe, USA, China, Japan, etc.). Nutritionally it is superior as compared to major cereal crops. Quinoa contains good amount of micronutrients like Calcium, phosphorous and iron. The protein is of high quality having essential amino acids like lysine which are generally lacking in cereals.

Due to its popularity among the rich class people in developed countries the prices have increased by almost three times in very short period of 3-4 years. In 2011, Quinoa fetched very high price of about $ 3000 to $ 8000 USD depending upon the quality of produce and the varieties grown. This has made difficult for the common people to include it in their meals. This has been now mainly preferred by high income groups. But for quinoa growing farmers it has made their livelihoods sustainable and more comfortable as they are getting more income per unit area.

Regarding growing conditions Quinoa can be grown from coastal regions to as high as 4000 meters above sea level. It can withstand day temperatures of up to 40 ͦC and can be sown in the areas receiving rainfall of 300 mm to 1000 mm. It is one of the hardy crops and can sustain harsh climatic conditions. It is least damaged by birds as its seed coat is bitter in taste which contains high amount of saponins. The seed coat saponins are also utilized in various industries for making detergents and antiseptic solutions.

The current day scenario of this crop has raised many questions regarding nutritional security of the native people of quinoa growing regions (Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Cambodia, Andean regions). High value of this crop made it difficult for the poor farmers to include it in their food basket. It is currently exported to non traditional areas due to greater monetary benefits.
United Nations General Assembly has come to the rescue of these farmers/people and declared the year 2013 as "International Year of Quinoa" by recognising the efforts of the Andean people who have made great contributions in preserving this crop as a food and sustained its production keeping natural ecosystem balance.

The main objective behind this declaration is to create awareness around the world for this wonder crop which has future role in combating malnutrition, eradicating hunger and sustaining food security.

About Author / Additional Info:
Visit http://www.fao.org/quinoa-2013/en/ for more information on this crop