Bolivia proposes Codex standard for quinoa

by Jeff Gelski
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The National Codex Committee of Bolivia proposed the development of a draft Codex standard for quinoa grain.

GENEVA — The National Codex Committee of Bolivia proposed the development of a draft Codex standard for quinoa grain (Chenopodium quinoa Willd) during the 38th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission July 6-11 in Geneva.

“Several Codex members have concerns about health and fair trade practices affecting the international trade in perishable and non-perishable goods,” the National Codex Committee of Bolivia said. “This can result in restrictions or prohibitions, especially when a product is not the subject of an internationally respected standard. For this reason, Bolivia proposes the development of a quinoa grain Codex standard, to reflect the growing international trade in this product.”

Area cultivated for quinoa production in Bolivia grew to 131,192 hectares (324,182 acres) in 2012-13 from 64,789 hectares (160,097 acres) in 2010-11, according to the Ministry of Rural Development and Land. Quinoa is known for its high protein content, which ranges between 13.8% and 21.9%, depending on variety, according to the National Codex Committee of Bolivia.

The Codex Alimentarius international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice are designed to contribute to the safety, quality and fairness of this international food trade.

The Codex standard for quinoa would establish requirements for processed (treated) quinoa grain intended for trade. It would include quinoa varieties, cultivars and ecotypes, the grain of which would be destined for human consumption, but it would not include grain for sowing or other purposes.

Minimum requirements for safety and quality would be established under the standard as well as definitions pertaining to how quinoa would be classified based on its size and color. Other requirements would be homogeneity in package and packing methods and information that must appear when marking and labeling a package.

More than 82% of the world quinoa exports come from members of the Latin American Integration Association, in particular the Andean countries of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, according to the National Codex Committee of Bolivia. Importing countries include the United States, Canada, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Denmark, Malaysia, Italy, Japan, Spain, Israel, Singapore and Switzerland.

The Codex standard for quinoa should take smallholder traditional growers into account, said Sergio Nuñez de Arco, a quinoa specialist for Andean Naturals, a U.S. importer of quinoa. While agro-industrial companies produce quinoa on irrigated lands and pull in 3,000 to 4,000 kilograms (about 6,600 to 8,800 lbs) per hectare, a traditional smallholder farmer depends on rainfall and produces 800 kilograms on average ever two years, he said.

“Codex’s initiative on setting standards for quinoa is both important and timely,” he said. “Important as it has the potential to not only set much needed standards for quality, but also to protect the traditional smallholder growers so they can coexist with large private agro-industrial producers in the new era of commoditized quinoa.” MBN

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READER COMMENTS (1)

By sergio Nunez 7/17/2015 12:10:23 PM
It is very fitting that Codex would take a closer look at the current unregulated state of the quinoa market, which currently pins smallholder traditional growers against agro-industrial upstarts in what most consider an unfair fight to the bottom, leading smallholders back to poverty and promoting unsustainable cost-cutting