An Andean grain, Kiwicha is experiencing a boom in exportation these days. Because of its great nutritional and medicinal value it has attained a much higher percentage of consumption outside Peru, while in its country of origin its use is declining as more and more people go to the cities.
Kiwicha is a variety of amaranth that has been grown in Peru for thousands of years and still finds an important role in the diet of rural peoples. But in the cities, despite its very high percentage of protein and other nutrients, which qualify it to be called a superfood, a desire to modernize and leave behind the trappings of rural life that people in the cities stigmatize has caused people to abandon this outstanding food. Nevertheless, countries such as Germany, Japan, USA, Spain and others see growing demand for this seed.
Some months ago in Cuzco programs and activities were implemented to give incentives for the cultivation of organic kiwicha as well as to improve it. While the focus is on export, the activities emphasize rural communities for their role in growing commercially this seed.
For example, The National Institute for Agrarian Innovation presented recently a project to improve the cultivation of kiwicha in the Andes with a focus primarily on the provinces of Anta and Acomayo. They also introduced a new, improved varied of kiwicha called Inia 430 Imperial. The objective is to promote the production of this variety in the different regions of Cuzco since it is improved and has an even higher nutritional value.
In the fertile fields of Cuzco kiwicha grows fantastically. It makes a landscape filled with different colors in the arms of our mountains. The plant has a whole range of colors and it makes our landscapes all that more dramatic while producing this grain in abundance.
Kiwicha is tiny, smaller than a mustard seed, but it grows into a large plant which can produce some 100,000 seeds.
While kiwicha is gaining ground internationally many people of Cuzco ask what is going on with the local market. Production is now oriented towards international consumers. Local consumption of the grain is low, even though we are the owners of this traditional Andean cereal and we have the best land for its cultivations. “Should there not be an opening to Cuzco itself and efforts to promote it locally”, people ask.
The price of kiwicha in Cuzco’s markets is between 6 and 10 soles a kilo. The vendors, caseras, worry about the rise in prices due to the export demand, because few local people can afford to pay for the grain now. Besides modernization, this may be one of the most important reasons for most recent decline in local demand. The price is just too high now.
Nevertheless, kiwicha has gone out into the world and is finding great success. Even though we wish we had better local access, we feel pride in the success of this ancestral grain.