Quinoa is high in protein, calcium and iron and is a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. Quinoa has potential for uses in many modern cuisines and there are a large range of products available from health food shops and major supermarkets. As it is gluten free, quinoa also appeals to those with gluten intolerance. Products include seed, flour, pasta and bread.
Quinoa seeds are disc-shaped and seed size ranges from 1.30–2.7mm in diameter. Plants are 1-2 metres tall with many branches and a flower head with large clusters of seeds at the end of the stalk that are harvested for the saleable product of quinoa seed.
Quinoa grown for commercial production is still a developing industry in Australia and much of the agronomic information comes from South America, United States, Canada and Europe where it is grown as a summer crop. Cultural practices and marketing are still being developed for Australia. Production has been successful in northern Tasmania and Western Australia.
Prices received for quinoa tripled in the eight years preceding 2014, due to demand in the USA and Europe, with prices in 2013 sitting at US$10-17 per kilogram retail price for South American organic quinoa. However, in late 2013 to early 2014 there was a 20% fall in quinoa prices at the farm gate with further falls expected as the South American harvest enters the market. As quinoa production increases world wide to meet demand, it is expected that prices will settle back closer to where they were in 2011, at around AU$2.50-3.70 per kilogram. Where the price finally settles will strongly depend on supply and demand. The return on quinoa and the fact that the plant is robust has seen an increasing grower interest in commercial production of the crop.
Quinoa is a developing industry in Australia and faces a number of challenges which are commonly posed to new industries, including developing machinery and facilities for commercial processing and establishing critical volume to develop an industry body.
Facts and Figures
- Quinoa has been consumed for thousands of years in South America
- Seeds and flowers come in a variety of colours ranging from green to red and purple
- Quinoa was grown in more than 70 countries
- Quinoa is being produced in Tasmania and Western Australia
- Australian plantings of quinoa are estimated to be around 50 hectares, producing 45 tonnes of quinoa with an estimated value of AU$160,000
- Machinery and facilities for commercial processing of quinoa in Australia need further development
The status of quinoa in Australia comprises one main organic grower (located in Tasmania) with smaller cottage plantings in various regions around the country. Broad acre, non-organic cropping has been achieved to only a very limited extent in Western Australia. A number of producers have trialled quinoa intermittently with other crops or are producing small volumes. Growing interest in quinoa and quinoa products is likely to alter this in coming years.
The first Australian large-scale crop was grown in Tasmania in 2007. Total Australian plantings of quinoa were estimated to be 50 hectares, producing 45 tonnes of quinoa with an estimated value of AU$160,000. Quinoa is also produced in Western Australia and growers in other regions are expressing an interest in commercial production.