Amatheon, one of Zambia’s large Agribusiness enterprises, has disclosed that it has budgeted to buy about 250 tons of quinoa from its out-grower farmers in Mumbwa worth about US$200,000 in 2020.

The Agri-Business company has introduced commercial quinoa production in Zambia with about 800 hectares under commercial cultivation.

The move by the company means that agribusiness opportunities continue to expand in Zambia as more crops and companies that are connected to the global Agro value chain have set up commercial farms in Zambia and are engage local farmers in out-grower schemes.

While a 50kg bag of maize is fetching K110, a new crop on the block, quinoa is fetching US$40 (about K720) per 50kg bag. More and more crops with ready uptakers and market are cropping up for those ready to seize the opportunities.

Quinoa is a rice-like grain that is highly nutritious, has all the nine amino as in proteins, high in fibre and is considered a viable substitute for rice and couscous.

Amatheon Agri Zambia Managing Director Troy Minne disclosed that they are already buying quinoa from the out-grower farmers in dollars and that the crop is forecast on exports to Europe and other key quinoa consuming markets.

About 1,200 local farmers surrounding the farm in Mumbwa joined the out-grower scheme on the inception and the introduction of quinoa will promote crop diversification and reduce the dependence on maize in the country. Not only is quinoa a nutritious grain, but it also has the potential of being a major export crop for Zambia.

“We are not yet selling quinoa and we are still to explore the local market, but we are buying at $40 per bag (approximately K720 per 50kg bag) as the commodity is dollar-linked. This is a business that Amatheon has started in order to create opportunities for the local farmers as well as on the commercial business. It a product that’s linked to the dollar and it’s not a kwacha based commodity”, he said.

Minne acknowledged that quinoa is not yet a well-known crop in Zambia but has stressed that they are have come up with an initiative of extending this opportunity to out-grower farmers who are guaranteed the market and uptake of produce.

“At the moment, we have an extension function within the small scale business segment. We go out and promote not only the growing but also support local farmers with technical services. Quinoa serves as a substitute for rice and couscous (durum wheat) in developed countries and is very rich in proteins, so the global market is wide”, he said.

Quinoa is not widely cultivated in Africa but Minne explained that it’s grown successfully in isolated areas of the continent. “There are isolated areas where it’s been grown in Africa, I know that it is grown in South Africa, and certainly it is grown in Ghana, Ethiopia as well as Uganda”, he said.

He further said at the moment Amatheon isn’t making any products from quinoa locally and may in future initiate value addition but stressed that the crop has a big market in foreign countries and will deliver US dollar inflows into the country as its traded in Us dollar.

Minne stated that Amatheon has invested in a processing facility in Mumbwa rural which it is using to polish the quinoa grains before exporting mostly to Europe.