Consumer preferences for the quality characteristics of sorghum grain in Eastern Uganda: A choice experiment approach
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is an important staple food crop for millions of food insecure people in the Semi-Arid Tropics. However, the crop has not been fully exploited due to undesirable consumer characteristics. The objective of this study was to identify quality characteristics that consumers of sorghum prefer so as to increase its consumption in Uganda. Quality in this study was evaluated based on four sensory characteristics of atapa (atapa is a local name for sorghum paste in Eastern Uganda): colour, aroma, taste and texture; and grain size. A choice experiment was conducted to analyse consumer preferences for quality characteristics of atapa. The discrete choices obtained from the choice experiment were analysed using Mixed Logit models fitted in preference- and willingness to pay-space. Results revealed that sweet taste, good aroma, elastic texture and big grain size had positive effects on the consumer preference. In terms of magnitude, sweet taste had the largest effect on consumer preference followed by aroma. Grain size was important because consumers believed that the bigger the size, the more the flour that would be obtained after milling. None of the colours was found to be important; instead respondents associate the existing colours of different varieties with their known texture, taste and aroma. There were also significant positive implicit prices for the preferred (non-colour) attributes, implying that consumers were willing to pay a price premium for sweet taste, good aroma, elastic texture and big grain size. The highest premium would be paid for sweet taste (US$ 0.69) followed by good aroma (US$ 0.39). We also evaluated five hypothetical varieties (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) based on the implicit prices of the individual attributes that constitute the varieties. We found out that varieties with a good taste, good aroma, elastic texture and big grain size had larger total willingness to pay values than those missing any of these attributes. We conclude that sweet taste and aroma and elastic texture are the most important quality attributes of atapa. Thus, we recommend to sorghum breeders to consider these quality attributes in their breeding programmes if consumption of sorghum-based foods is to increase.