Australia, US race to satisfy insatiable, and lucrative, quinoa appetite

miércoles 25 de febrero de 2015 09:00 GYT

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY Feb 25 (Reuters) - Australia and the United States, two of the world's biggest wheat exporters, are racing to become mass producers of the South American "super food" quinoa and tap a gluten-free market expected to be worth more than $6 billion by 2018.

Importantly for Australian wheat farmers who regularly battle crop-destroying droughts, the nutritious grain-like seed pronounced 'kin wa' can handle extreme climates.

It also sells for around $3,000 a tonne, compared with wheat which fetches under $300 a tonne.

"We have been growing quinoa for about five years now, and as the market has grown, there is little shortage of other farmers willing to turn to quinoa," said Ashley Wiese, a farmer in Narrogin, southeast of Perth in Western Australia state.

Quinoa, the staple of Andean farmers for thousands of years, has taken health-conscious Western nations by storm.

Demand grew 300 percent between 2007 and 2012, data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization shows, as traditional suppliers Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Ecuador struggle to meet demand from health-conscious Western consumers.

Quinoa prices doubled from 2007 to 2009 and rose almost unchecked until a peak in 2014, according to U.N. data. Demand for the nut-flavoured quinoa shows little sign of easing.

The size of the global gluten free market is forecast to grow at 10 percent a year to be worth more than $6.2 billion by 2018, according to a 2013 report by Research and Markets.   Continuación...