Farmers’ demand for quality and nutritionally enhanced sweetpotato planting material: Evidence from experimental auctions in Rwanda

Most farmers source sweetpotato vines from neighboring farmers or from cuttings taken from
their own plots during the previous season. In the absence of “clean” vines prepared with more
attentive production practices, farmer-to-farmer vine exchanges and own-saved vines tends to
encourage the accumulation of pests and diseases that ultimately affect yields. In addition, the
perishability and bulkiness of its primary propagation material – vines – there is relatively little
articulated demand for vines through either market or non-market exchanges. In addition,
demand for nutritionally rich variety and biofortified crop orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) is
limited because of multiple factors including farmers’ unfamiliarity with the product and its
novel attributes such as its high beta carotene content, the search costs incurred in locating the
product, and information asymmetries between buyer and seller about the quality and
performance of the product. We investigate demand for quality vine and nutritional attribute of
the crop using a second price experimental auction approach by determine the premium price
farmers are willing to pay for these attributes and investigate drivers of demand. In the absence
of information on the source of vines, maturity and resistance to diseases, farmers are willing to
pay a premium of about 35 Rwandan Francs for high quality vines sourced from decentralized
vine multipliers. However, on provision of information on the source of vines, maturity and
resistance to diseases of the vines, the premium price increases significantly to 133.71 Rwandan
francs and to 107.22 Rwandan Francs after provision of visual information depicting the
performance of the vines in demonstration plots. The premium price also increases significantly
for vines sourced from neighbors to about 74.35 Rwandan francs, which further increases to
151.53 Rwandan francs when nutrition information is provided to the farmers. The study also
revealed that demand for high quality vines is correlated with sex of household head, sex of the
respondent, age of the respondent in years, household size, membership in a farmer
organization, information from neighbors/other farmers, access to marshland, females make
agriculture decisions in the household among other factors. In terms of policy, there is need to
promote importance of quality vine and nutritional value of OFSP through sensitization on the
field demonstration and nutritional values.