October 21, 2017

Agrobolivia – Bolivian health boost

Bolivian chia seeds are generally regarded to be the best in the world and increasing interest in the health benefits of the product have brought awareness of Bolivia’s produce to a wider audience. For its part Agrobolivia is looking to promote the fact that Bolivia has even more to offer European consumers.

“We’re very interested in promoting Bolivian products into the European market, particularly into the UK health shop sector,” explains Alan Burgos, Consultant. “We are now looking to use chia seeds and quinoa, which is another product that is growing in popularity, as a stepping stone for other Bolivian crops such as sesame seeds, brazil nuts and soya beans.”

The benefits of both chia and quinoa have tapped into the requirements of increasingly health-conscious UK consumers, in addition to the need for gluten-free products as more people are diagnosed as coeliacs.

“Quinoa is gluten-free so is good for everyone and both Bolivian quinoa and chia seeds are organic,” adds Mr Burgos. “I believe non-organic gluten products are causing many allergies in people. Even ailments such as diabetes and dementia might be an issue as there are so many cases in Europe and the rest of the Western world. In contrast instances of allergies, diabetes and dementia within Bolivia are very rare, particularly in the mountain areas away from the big cities. As chia has no taste or flavour it’s very easy to add to dishes at all hours of the day and by doing so add real health benefits.”

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“Awareness within Europe is definitely growing and people prefer Bolivian quinoa because our second grade is Peru’s first grade. Peru’s best quinoa is therefore the equivalent of our second best and the same goes for chia. It’s the equivalent of Rolls Royce and Mercedes – both are great cars but one is still that little bit better than the other and that’s what we’re able to offer.”

Despite the health benefits of chia, Mr Burgos is keen to stress that the product has the potential for mass appeal and is not just for gym-goers. “We need people to understand that chia and quinoa are not only great for health conscious people as it has a wide variety of uses. Rather than being sold just as a raw seed I’m sure we’ll see chia-related products such as drinks very soon. It can also be used in baking too so we have a great deal of work to do in order to introduce these ideas into the marketplace.”

“Awareness within Europe is definitely growing and people prefer Bolivian quinoa because our second grade is Peru’s first grade. Peru’s best quinoa is therefore the equivalent of our second best and the same goes for chia. It’s the equivalent of Rolls Royce and Mercedes – both are great cars but one is still that little bit better than the other and that’s what we’re able to offer.”

Alan Burgos, Consultant

Since the 1950s Bolivia has been considered as South America’s poorest country but the growth of the chia and quinoa markets and the increased revenue it has been able to generate now mean that farmers can afford to send their children to school rather than needing them to work in the fields. This new found wealth, particularly in the western mountainous regions, has had a hugely beneficial impact and means that Bolivians are less reliant on the government. It has brought a lot of people out of poverty and has allowed a growing number of young people to get a good education.

“There are some amazing agricultural engineers in Bolivia that know the land and could provide consultancy services within Europe so we’re not just looking at products as we’re all keen to maximise the potential of Bolivia’s services. In the meantime, my goal is to increase exports of chia from Bolivia into Europe, whilst maintaining a good price to help continue the development of the country. We can definitely compete with the likes of Argentina and Paraguay as we have the best chia in the world. Our products have the highest protein levels, the highest Omega 3 levels and the highest Niacin levels. We are also looking to introduce it into the animal feed market and we already have permission to do so from the EU.”

The rising demand for high quality chia within Europe can only be good for Bolivia and it looks a sure bet that the quantity of chia coming into the UK market, as well as quinoa and other Bolivian-produced products, will only increase in the future.

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