Can superfood quinoa reap super profits for Australia?

Monday, 03 August, 2015

Australia’s agricultural sector is looking to cash in on the quinoa trend, with a three-year national trial of the ‘superfood’ commencing across five Australian states.

The grain has surged in popularity over the past decade, prompting increasing production in South America, Europe and Asia. Now Australia is looking to get in on the quinoa action, planting field trials in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.

Project leader Richard Snowball said research would evaluate the agronomy and suitability of growing quinoa.

“Early indications suggest quinoa could be a highly profitable crop given it’s not a very difficult crop to grow, particularly when grown under irrigation in warmer environments,” Snowball said.

“In southern climates quinoa could be an ideal crop for wheat, canola and barley growers, as the growing process is similar. By adding quinoa to the mix of crops, it could take the pressure off rotations that are at risk of disease and weeds.”

Scientists plan to work closely with industry during the project, testing seed processing techniques as well as the amino acid balance within the protein, for which quinoa is highly regarded.

The project, funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), is co-funded and led by the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA). It will build on DAFWA research on quinoa which has taken place at its Kununurra Research Facility over the past three years.

Facility manager Mark Warmington said results showed much promise for the future of quinoa production in Australia.

“Early trials under irrigation have revealed a typical crop produces a yield of between 2-3 tonnes per hectare,” Warmington said.

“When you factor that into the current price of quinoa of between $1400 to $4000/tonne or more, and the high consumer demand, the future for the crop and growers’ profitability looks bright.”

RIRDC Senior Program Manager for Plant Industries Dr John de Majnik said it was important for farmers to plan ahead and assess whether quinoa could complement their operation.

“When it comes to diversifying in new commodities, farmers want to know they are investing in a growth or high-value industry,” Dr de Majnik said.

“While quinoa seeds are not readily available in Australia yet, it is definitely one to keep on the watchlist.”

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