How we aim to sustainably grow the fonio markets and prevent a “Quinoa Boom.”
So, what happened to Quinoa?
Quinoa transitioned from a subsistence crop in the Andean highlands to an international commercial one in the early 2000s, and it had both a positive and negative impact for smallholder farmers. At first, Andean quinoa farmers enjoyed economic benefits from the development of export markets. Previously, a pound of quinoa sold for less than $0.25. But when demand for quinoa outstripped supply, the price for quinoa rose precipitously to over $4 per pound — a brief windfall for smallholders.
But, with every boom comes a bust.
The quinoa boom attracted investment in industrial-scale quinoa farming both along the fertile coastal region of Peru and abroad. These market savvy farmers saturated the market, and the excess supply resulted in lower prices. This boom and bust made it challenging for smallholders to adjust and compete in the global market. Today, a pound of quinoa is back near pre-boom prices at just $0.60 per pound.
How we are setting up fonio for boomless fonio growth:
To be clear, we very much hope to make fonio as globally appealing as quinoa. Increasing the demand for fonio means more impact in West Africa, and that’s our mission. However, we’re extremely mindful of how fonio’s popularity may play out. That is why we are putting in measures now to prevent a quinoa scenario.
We know that the path towards sustainable fonio growth means growing our supply in concert with demand — that’s why we’re getting out in front. Our supply chain development is geared towards reducing the price of fonio in West Africa even as an export market grows. If we grow the market too fast before we grow supply, prices will increase. That will make for a disruptive market, and it will also set the stage for a boom.
That’s what we’re trying to avoid.
Instead, we are laying the groundwork now for increased supply. Here is how we’re working with smallholders to do it:
- Increase yields where there is runway.
- Train and equip farmers for increased harvests.
- Guarantee purchase of all they harvest at a fair price.
- Reduce their input costs and increase the cash in their pockets.
- Provide community services that make being a farmer more appealing to young people
We cannot absolutely prevent a boom, but we can work to establish conditions that make a boom less likely. With quinoa as a valuable case study, we are committed to creating a supply chain that increases net income for West African smallholders, not increasing the cost of what they grow.