DAY 34 – What’s next for Bolivia’s farmers?

DAY 34 – What’s next for Bolivia’s farmers?

shipment-ready

This APQUISA quinoa is cleaned, packed and ready to go. But there’s a delay as markets and revenue streams are verified.

Across the countryside, I am finding farmers who are saving hundreds of pounds of carefully planted, harvested and hand processed quinoa in their homes.  Each 25-pound (quintal) bag represents almost $114 (800Bs) of labor and agricultural inputs such organic fertilizer and pest control systems but is currently valued at just $71(500Bs) or much less if it’s not organically certified ($50 or 350Bs).

This spring’s drought may have destroyed 40% of the planted quinoa and though some farmers are replanting, hoping to get in a little more yield before the winter frosts, it is uncertain if they will be successful in this.  Once again, worms are eating the quinoa seed heads though farmers are lax to invest in costly organic pest management systems, which are still experimental and may not always work.  Farmers have also cut costs on the organic llama fertilizer which costs $450 a truckload for about 1.5 acres of land, thus fertilizing less.  They have also reduced their land cultivation by about 80% to minimize outside labor costs which once were as high as $21 a day plus food and lodging.  Now quinoa families are managing 9 to 18 acres plots on their own – instead of the vast 130 -150 acres they previously managed.  They are selling their tractors too, to help with cash

Quinoa fields - only some plants are germinating due to extreme drought conditions.

Quinoa fields – only some plants are germinating due to teh spring’s extreme drought conditions.

flow.  According to Ing. Aroni, is estimated there were 2,000 tractors purchased in the Royal Quinoa region over the past decade. Now it seems at least 30% have been sold or are for sale – most to the richer, more developed Santa Cruz lowlands where vast amounts of rice, wheat and soy are grown.  When necessary, farmers will take a few quinoa sacks to the local Challapata market to sell, below production costs, to at least keep the cash flow moving.

Many of the quinoa tractors were bought from new bank loans made in the past 2 years.  It will be interesting to see what happens when this year’s harvest comes through low and without much market value and there are not enough funds for loan repayments.  Banks are not allowed to take farmers’ lands or houses and the production was the collateral for many of the loans which seem to average about $5,000 with a 12% or more apy.

forested-vs-non-forested

Empty fields in Bolivia’s Royal Quinoa zone. Many farmers saw the stagnant, low prices for quinoa on the world market and decided to not even bother planting quinoa. They explain that it would have been a loss for them anyway.

There is vast migration which has affected education systems since fewer children are in local schools.  It is common for quinoa communities to have an average of 25 permanent families and 75 residents, who live in other cities and border countries such as Chile, occasionally returning to tend to their quinoa, village meeting or festivals.  The local economy is also affected as there is now less construction of new houses, purchasing of farm equipment, food, labor and housing.  So people have less to spend, earn less and times are tough.  Some men have left their quinoa fields for work elsewhere – working as long distance truck drivers or as laborers in the city – leaving the women to tend to the quinoa alone with their children.  Others have sent their children to college and are waiting for their children to get more professional jobs as lawyers, agronomists, and business developers – though jobs for college graduates are hard to find here in Bolivia.  Entire families have left for the cities of Oruro, La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

img_1188

The desert dust bowl of some of Bolivia’s best quinoa lands.

While Bolivia’s quinoa yields for 2017 look bleak, most agree that market prices will stay steady – partly due to the vast amounts of quinoa still in storage, and not in circulation in Bolivia’s quinoa market, and the continued presence of global quinoa production.

 

Comments

  1. Does your site have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

  2. I just like the helpful information you supply to your articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and test once more here regularly. I’m relatively sure I will be informed lots of new stuff proper here! Good luck for the following!

  3. whoah this weblog is fantastic i really like reading your posts. Keep up the good work! You understand, lots of persons are looking round for this information, you could help them greatly.

  4. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic blog. An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

Speak Your Mind

*