Consumer preference information is essential to targeting research. This paper reports an effort of a multi-disciplinary team to measure the market value of cowpea characteristics. Five samples were purchased once per month in seven markets in Ghana and Cameroon starting in September 1996. In the market, price and vendor characteristics were noted. In the laboratory, size of grains, testa color, testa texture, eye color and damage levels were recorded. A hedonic pricing regression model was used. Results indicate that grain size is the most important characteristic. Consumers seem more sensitive to bruchid (Callosobruchus maculates) damage than hypothesized. Cowpeas with white testa command a clear premium only in one of the Ghanaian markets. In Ghana, black eyes sell at a premium, but in Cameroon black eyes are discounted. In general, this study indicates that quality characteristics are very important in West African food markets. Even low income consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that match their preferences, and they are vigilant in identifying products that do not meet their standards. Purchasing samples on a regular basis and hedonic pricing offers a practical way for biological scientists and economists to work together to measure these consumer preferences. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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