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'The most perfect' food is gaining popularity

Friday, January 7, 2011

Thanks to soaring sales of quinoa, Andean farmers have been able to upgrade equipment from oxen-drawn plows to tractors.
Thanks to soaring sales of quinoa, Andean farmers have been able to upgrade equipment from oxen-drawn plows to tractors.

A grain that's indigenous to the Andes region of South America is making significant headway in ritzy organic food stores and rural markets around the globe, according to a published report.

Quinoa is storming back. The 'supergrain' that sustained Inca armies went into neglect since Spanish colonizers preferred wheat. It's called the supergrain because it is packed with nutritious elements including essential amino acids, minerals and protein. Quinoa is as nutritious as a mother's milk, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

"I've got high-performance athletes that swear by it," said David Schnorr, president of Quinoa Corp., the largest U.S. importer.

"This food is about the most perfect you can find for human diets," according to Duane Johnson, formerly an agronomist in Colorado State.

Quinoa has sold so well that some Bolivian farmers have been able to purchase tractors rather than continue to rely on ox-drawn plows.

Bolivia exported 1,439 metric tons valued at $1.8 million in 2000. Nine years later, those figures have ballooned. In 2009, Bolivian exports of the grain totaled 14,500 tons valued at $25 million minimum.

"We've easily doubled our business in the last couple of years during the worst economic recession we've had in a long time," said Schnoor.

Quinoa, which also is known as "chisiya mama" (mother grain in Quechua), is native to Chile, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.

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