Sunili Govinnage has some bad news for the foodies:
If you haven’t seen any listicles setting out the hundreds of ways coconut oil can improve your life yet, you probably need to check your internet connection.
The substance that South Asians, Southeast Asians and Islander people have been using for cooking, health and cosmetic purposes since way before Christopher Columbus went the wrong way to visit them has well and truly been Columbused (the term is used to describe white people discovering things that everyone else already knew about.)
Which is a good thing, no, given they can then sell for a higher price on the global market?
However, unlike the cultural appropriation of music, dance moves, yoga or tribal headdresses, the effect of certain staple crops becoming best sellers in the global north hits right in the guts.
Ah. OK. Maybe not…
The impact of the trendiness of quinoa, for example, is now well-known. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken.
Hipsters! You’re starving the Third World!
Buying products like quinoa, coconut oil or taff isn’t necessarily a bad thing if they are sourced from ethical producers and the profits stay with the communities that discovered them in the first place.
If those profits ‘stay with the communities’, what incentive does any First World company have to come and buy/grow them?
Tell you what, Sunili, you can keep your quinoa & we’ll just eat chicken in the West. OK?