Are Consumers in Developing Countries Willing-to-Pay More for Micronutrient-Dense Biofortified Foods? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Uganda
Vitamin A deficiency is a major health problem in Africa and in many other developing countries. Biofortified staple crops that are high in pro vitamins A and adapted to local growing environment have the potential to reduce the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency. One such example is the orange-fleshed sweetpotato. However because of its distinctive orange color, which is in contrast to the white varieties that are typically consumed in Africa, it is important to assess whether consumers will accept it. It is this question that this paper attempts to address, using a choice experiment with the real product to quantify the magnitude of the premium or discount in consumers’ willingness to pay that may be associated with it. In addition, it also considers the extent to which the provision of nutrition information affects valuations. Finally, it addresses whether the use of hypothetical scenarios, both with and without a cheap talk script is justified in a developing country context, and quantifies the magnitude of hypothetical bias that results as a consequence. The experiment was conducted in Uganda, which is a key target country for the dissemination of orange-fleshed sweetpotato. Our results suggest that in the absence of nutrition information, there is no difference in the willingness to pay between white and orange varieties, but there is a discount for yellow sweetpotato (which does not have any beta-carotene). The provision of nutrition information does translate into substantial premia for the orange varieties, indicating that an information campaign may be key to drive market acceptance of the new product. Finally, there is a substantial hypothetical bias in both the WTP and the marginal WTP for the new varieties, and while cheap talk mitigates this bias, it does not eliminate it.
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