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Global Grains – The Grain, The Growth, and The Global Demand
With the challenge of climate change to global agriculture, drought-tolerant cassava in Africa and quinoa South America could lead to meaningful progress on food security with gains in agricultural productivity.
African countries produce far more cassava than any other crop, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Because it is fairly resistant to poor soil and drought, agriculture experts and researchers are turning to cassava to combat food insecurity related to unpredictable weather patterns.
The crop’s potential for increased yields and improvements to its nutritional value could have a significant impact in a region with 240 million undernourished people.
Across the Atlantic, Latin America’s sights are set on the production of quinoa, an ancient grain native to that region. The U.N. declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa in an effort to bring awareness to the nutrient-rich crop.
Much like cassava, quinoa is adaptable to changing climates and geographic conditions. South American quinoa producers have seen global demand more than double in the last five years, mostly from Europe, the U.S., and Canada.
However, meeting high food demand can be challenging; quinoa farmers are already overwhelmed by the workload. With more than 200 million pounds produced in 2012, the widespread global demand for the grain is leading to price volatility and shortages. With the U.S. importing a projected 68 million pounds in 2013 alone, Andean farmers are struggling to keep up with the demand.
These shortfalls demonstrate the hurdles that quinoa faces in becoming a major global commodity and staple in our diet. Prices are likely to remain volatile without increased investment in research funding for alternative strains and productivity improvements.
As awareness grows for crops such as cassava and quinoa, it is critical to harness their potential through well-managed programs and enhanced research that will ensure they are produced efficiently.