Agriculture: Three years after the Research and Development Centre (RDC) in Yusipang conducted a trial on a native South American crop, quinoa known for its high nutritious value, agriculture ministry will now promote its production.

Agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji, said the ministry is promoting quinoa, in the country because of its high nutritional value.

He also said that the crop fetches good price comparing to other cereals and it can be exported.

The ministry initiated the research and development work on quinoa considering its high nutritional quality, genetic variability and versatility to adapt to adverse climate and soil conditions.

As part of the nation-wide test for local adaptability, last year the crop was planted in around 40 acres of land in various dzongkhags like Phobjikha in Wangdue, Khangma in Trashigang, Bitekha and Dawakha in Paro and Yusipang, Phajoding and Dochula in Thimphu among others.

Of the nine varieties of quinoa that are currently under evaluation in the country, two varieties are identified for high altitude areas that are above 1500ms above sea level, while one variety is identified for low altitude areas.

A variety, Ivory 123, was harvested in Haa in September and some 12kgs are sold at Nu 200 a kg, while some 135kgs was harvested from 20 decimal land in RDC Wengkhar in Mongar.

During the evaluation, it was found that the crop was more suitable in the southern region of the country. However, it was also found that the crop has poor grain filling at lower elevations.

A specialist with RDC, Tirtha Bdr Katwal, said that quinoa has extreme agro-ecological adaptability and has different ecotypes. “It is known for remarkable cold resistance, robust tolerance to frost and drought.”

He said the crop cycle varies from 120 to 240 days. “In Bhutan, it matures in 112 to 115 days in lower elevations and from 165 to 225 days in higher elevations.”

The specialist also said the crop is referred to as the world’s healthiest food. The grain and tender leaves of quinoa is also consumed. A 100g (grammes) serving of quinoa provides 368 calories, 14g of protein, 6g of fat, 64g of carbohydrate and 7g of fibre.

It was found that the protein quality and quantity in quinoa seed is often superior to those of more common cereal grains like rice, wheat and maize.

Department of Agriculture (DoA) is in the process of printing quinoa information booklet and preparing a national paper for the International Quinoa Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in December, this year.

The production in Bhutan is expected to be around 300 to 500kgs this year, while the expected production in three years is about 3,000 to 4,000kgs at the current rate of production. Globally the price of processed quinoa seed ranges from USD 4 to 6 a kg.

In 2017, DoA will focus the quinoa production on about 65 acres of land with the expected production of 26,000kgs from across the country. A total of 32 kgs of seed is required.

Tirtha Bdr Katwal said that the DoA would buy the seeds from the farmers who cultivated the crop at Nu 100 a kg.

The planting time of the crop above 1500 meters above sea level is from mid-March to mid -April while for the areas below 1,500 meters above sea level is from mid-October to November.

Agriculture officials said different species of local quinoa are found across the country. However, it cannot be harvested for grains like the imported variety.

Meanwhile, there is no local name for Quinoa.

Dechen Tshomo