One of the world’s most popular health foods that has its roots in South America, quinoa is now being grown in Bangladesh for the domestic market.
High in protein, dietary fiber and amino acids, quinoa is often referred to as the mother of all grains. It is basically a herbaceous annual plant grown as a crop primarily for its edible seeds. It’s cultivation has already spread to 70 countries, including the US.
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And in Bangladesh too, after five years of research at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, the cultivation of the rainfed crop has begun in isolated pockets in the districts of Lalmonirhat, Kurigram and Patuakhali. However, its farming is still at a nascent stage.
“Following my application, the Ministry of Agriculture approved the cultivation of quinoa in Bangladesh in September 2020,” Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University’s agronomy Prof Parimal Kanti Biswas told UNB.
“After five years of research, I have started cultivating quinoa at the field level. The results are expected,” he added.
Similarly, Iqbal Hasan, an agronomist with a non-government organisation, said that a few years ago he was on the hunt for an alternative crop to help increase the profits of Bangladeshi farmers.
“By spending Tk 500-600, four to six kg of quinoa can be cultivated. I have successfully run a pilot project. Some farmers are also part of my project,” he said.
One of the farmers who’s part of Iqbal’s project is Mukul Kumar Roy. “I have cultivated this super grain in Lalmonirhat on the advice of Iqbal Hasan. He provided me with seeds and necessary guidance,” he said.
Quinoa cultivation & benefits
Quinoa cultivation is possible in both drought-prone and saline soils. The best time to plant quinoa is March-April. And the ideal cultivation time is mid-November.
Quinoa contains amino acids and is rich in lysine that helps grow healthy tissue in the human body. Quinoa is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, vitamin-E, potassium and fiber. When cooked, the grains quadruple in size and become transparent.
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Imported quinoa is sold for 1,600 Tk per kg in cities and big towns across Bangladesh. Experts say that if a market can be created for quinoa in Bangladesh, then the local farmers will benefit. “The quinoa produced in this country can also be exported,” said Prof Parimal.