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Misperceived quality: Fertilizer in Tanzania

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  • Michelson, Hope
  • Fairbairn, Anna
  • Ellison, Brenna
  • Maertens, Annemie
  • Manyong, Victor

Abstract

Fertilizer use remains below recommended rates in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, contributing to low crop yields and poverty. We explore the role of fertilizer quality. We interviewed fertilizer sellers in an important agricultural region in Tanzania and sampled their fertilizer to establish that the nutrient content of fertilizers is good, meeting industry standards. However, we find farmers’ beliefs to be inconsistent with this reality. Beliefs about adulteration push down farmer willingness-to-pay for fertilizer; with farmers willing to pay more if quality is verified. In addition, we find some evidence of a quality inference problem: many fertilizers have degraded appearance, and farmers appear to rely on these observable attributes to (incorrectly) assess unobservable nutrient content. Market prices reflect neither nutrient content nor degradation in appearance, even in competitive markets. Our results suggest the existence of an equilibrium where farmer beliefs about fertilizer are inconsistent with the truth, and seller incentives to invest to alter beliefs are limited, motivating future research into the origins and persistence of such an equilibrium.

Suggested Citation

  • Michelson, Hope & Fairbairn, Anna & Ellison, Brenna & Maertens, Annemie & Manyong, Victor, 2021. "Misperceived quality: Fertilizer in Tanzania," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 148(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:148:y:2021:i:c:s0304387820301541
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2020.102579
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    6. Srijna Jha & Harald Kaechele & Marcos Lana & T.S Amjath-Babu & Stefan Sieber, 2020. "Exploring Farmers’ Perceptions of Agricultural Technologies: A Case Study from Tanzania," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(3), pages 1-21, January.
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    8. Gharib, Mariam H. & Palm-Forster, Leah H. & Lybbert, Travis J. & Messer, Kent D., 2021. "Fear of fraud and willingness to pay for hybrid maize seed in Kenya," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 102(C).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Farmer beliefs; Market failure; Technology adoption; Asymmetric information; Fertilizer; Sub-saharan africa;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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