Estimation of consumer preferences for cowpea varieties in Kumi and Soroti Districts, Uganda.
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Cowpea (Vigna Unguiculata L. Walp) is one of the most important indigenous legumes of the tropics and sub tropics. In Africa information on cowpea marketing and trade is lacking and data on cowpea production and consumption economics scattered, yet the urban population in developing world are undergoing a nutritional transition characterized by decline in consumption of traditional food crops, and increasing consumption of refined and processed foods, fats, sugars, and animal foods. There is need for a shift in philosophy of ―here‘s what we produce‖ to a situation where farmers take note of food products the consumer wants in order for their products to have a place in the market. This study focused on consumer preference for cowpea in Soroti and Kumi district, as these produce 90% of Uganda‘s cowpea crop. Using structured questionnaire 161 households were reached and 4 focus group discussions held in Soroti and Kumi. Hedonic price model was used to estimate preference for attributes. Study results showed that cowpeas are important part of diet as is consumed by up to 99.4% of the households and served on important occasions (73%) like funerals, child naming and to visitors, (71%). This popularity, and extensive current consumption, could translate in to a good market potential for the crop, if tapped well. It‘s more cherished by women (65.84%) and is consumed by over 90% of all the age groups. However, less and less parents teach their children how to prepare the crop, this being a potential danger of extinction of the crop in the future. Consumers have preference for white and tan testa cowpea and large seeded crop, associated with Ebalat, SECOW 2W and Icirikukwai. Results show that seed color (56%) and seed size are the most important quality parameters consumers consider in their decision to purchase. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for white grain color, the coefficients for all the other 4 varieties except Kenyan being positive and statistically significant. The Ugandan consumers discounted the black seeded cowpeas. These results suggest that efforts to improve upon grain size and the white testa color will be worthwhile in Uganda as consumers seem to be more interested in large seeds and white testa. Consumers are willing to pay more for a pure product and therefore it is recommended that traders and producers sort their seeds before sale. Awareness creation campaigns on nutritional importance of cowpeas and a study in regional preference and demand are recommended.