Day 9: The Wholesale-Import Connection

Day 9: The Wholesale-Import Connection

Following the value chain now takes us to the UNFIlogo buyer who purchases Bolivian quinoa from the ports of South America and distributes it across the United States. The US bag of quinoa I am following came from a shipment of quinoa in Arica, Peru, an international port that landlocked Bolivia has access to. This quinoa arrived in New Jersey and was warehoused there until it was trucked out to the Brattleboro Food Coop. Juan Pablo Selane of the Quinoa Foods Company in Bolivia arranges these shipments. The UNFI buyer knows Juan Pablo personally, they met when Juan Pablo was studying in the US and contacted the buyer about purchasing quinoa. He values their long relationship and talks with pride of Juan Pablo’s programs that help farmers and their families he mentions the new processing plant that Quinoa Foods Company just built too.

imagesEach month UNFI receives 32,000 to 40,000 pounds of quinoa from Quinoa Foods Company, shipped by boat in 10 containers to ports in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Oakland. Though Peruvian quinoa is less expensive, it is often not organic and the UNFI buyer does not purchase it, preferring instead the quality and flavor the Bolivia quinoa. Quinoa Foods Company has the best consistency in quinoa size, color (red, black, white and mixed), and flavor. He feels the less expensive, and lesser quality Peruvian quinoa appeals more to mass markets such as Whole Foods and conventional companies that incorporate non-organic certified quinoa into many items such as baby food, energy foods and pasta.

Though supportive of organic and kosher certifications, UNFI is not fully committed to seeking out product with Fair Trade certification. The buyer feels there is enough transparency in their current sourcing and are confident in Quinoa Foods Company’s integrity. They do not feel another layer such as Fair Trade, is necessary or would justify its cost. Though UNFI buyer has never been to Bolivia (yet), he believes that suppliers in Bolivia are interwoven with the growers and companies such as Quinoa Foods Company give back to growers, similar to the way Fair Trade does too.

This week I’ll be meeting with Juan Pablo Selane in El Alto, La Paz.  Next post is about Fair Trade and quinoa….

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