Peru’s superfood Maca is booming business. But at what cost?

Tonight on the radioprogram AMIGOS of Radio Capelle 7-8pm Dutch time at 105.3FM I will be sharing about the Maca, its benefits, its origins, and ofcourse, some info related to its production, international trade and sustainability issues.

The MACA is a plant grown in the Andean region of South America, mainly in Peru. It grows in harsh conditions more than 4000 meters sea level. Although the maca was already an important food during the Inca empire, it is since 1990 that the maca became known outside the Andean region of Peru. This thanks to the work of the researcher Gloria Chacon who identified the maca and gave it its name. Nowadays, MACA is considered a superfood and it is rich in proteins, fibers, minerals and vitamins. It has become a very popular product due to many favorable health properties. Just to name some: it gives energy, it improves the feminine and masculine fertility, sexual desire and mental capacities like memory and concentration.

Maca

90% of the maca that is commercialized internationally originates from Peru. 91% of all maca is produced in the Peruvian province of Junin, and maca is also their most important source of income. Some figures: from 2013 to 2014 surface used for maca cultivation grew from 2,428 hectares to 4,051 hectares in the Junín, Pasco, Huancavelica, Puno and Ayacucho regions. Due to the increasing demand production has been extended to Tarma, Jauja, Huancayo, Pampas and Cuzco.

3 tipos de maca

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The last couple of years the exports have grown enormously, and the most important importers of Maca are the United States, Hong Kong, China and Japan, followed by some European countries like Germany and Belgium.

Expansion of the production of Maca due to a growing demand has not been unproblematic for Peru. The “boom of the maca” caused rapid conversion of high Andean grasslands into farmland, thus transforming the landscape, ecosystem, economy and society of the high Andean area of Junín. Junín is originally a region of cattle breeding, with camelids like llamas, alpacas and vicuñas, and the Maca-boom has led to displacing livestock to grazing, the main livelihood of rural families in the area.

Maca-production is not continuosly possible and it causes soil erosion. After about 3 years of Maca production the soil has to be at rest for about 10 years. This has caused the peasants to look for other lands at a higher altitude. So nowadays more areas of bare soil, lands in preparation and lands in recovery are observed. Increased maca production has disturbed not only wildlife but also the carbon reserves in the soils and the water retention and filtration capacity.

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Furthermore, there has been a serious threat to the maca business. A few years ago, Chinese companies began to illegally import the Maca plant. China is producing its own Maca now and has become a competitor in the maca-market. This has caused a fall in the maca prices, especially in 2015.

Finally, peasants who cultivate the maca generally have a low income and do not always work under favorable conditions. There are some companies and state programs who in cooperation with international organizations promote the organic and sustainable production of maca, including better working conditions for Maca producers.

NGO AMPA: connecting the Peruvian gastronomy with sustainable use of natural resources of the Amazon forests.

Last week I had the honor to interview the Peruvian Miguel Tang Tuesta, Director Green Economy of the foundation AMPA Peru, who was visiting the Netherlands. See below video in Spanish:

Just recently Miguel has been appointed as Amazon Embassador of the Province of Maynas for his great work in the area of biotrade, investigation and conservation of biodiversity of the Peruvian Amazon.

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Miguel Tang Tuesta- Amazon Embassador of the Province of Maynas, Peru & Director Green Economy of the foundation AMPA PERU

The foundation AMPA Peru won the very prestigious Green Latinamerican Award in September 2017 with their project “Gastronomy and Conservation”. This award can be won for important projects in the area of protection of biodiversity.

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Miguel Tang Tuesta and Karina Pinasco of AMPA PERU receive the Green Latinamerican Award 2017

In the interview Miguel very passionately mentioned how in this project the excellent Peruvian top cuisine is connected to sustainably derived natural ingredients from tropical forests from the Peruvian Amazon region. This generates income and development for the indigenous communities who manage the tropical forest. AMPA PERU teaches and has taught the communities to make sustainable use of the natural resources of the forest, without causing any deforestation; thus conserving the forest and its natural resources. Examples of these natural resources are: the “aguaje”, coconuts, mushrooms, and many other resources.

Adding natural ingredients from the Amazon forest to menus of Peruvian topchefs also enables innovation in the Peruvian cuisine. So the project Gastronomy and Conservation promotes a sustainable cuisine.

You can also find the interview with subtitles on YouTube. Click in the following link: Interview with Miguel Tang Tuesta