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AfricaRice and its Belgian partners win T W Schultz Prize

By Africa Rice Centre (WARDA)

COTONOU, Benin, September 19, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- An international research team led by Dr Matty Demont, Value Chain Economist at the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), received the prestigious T W Schultz Prize for Best Contributed Paper at the 28th International Conference of Agricultural Economists (ICAE) held recently in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil.

This flagship event is organized once every three years by the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE), which has a worldwide membership of agricultural economists and others concerned with agricultural economic problems and its primary aim is to foster the application of agricultural economics to improve rural economic and social conditions.

The Schultz Prize is named after the Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences Dr Theodore W Schultz, who was an outstanding contributor to IAAE and the agricultural economics profession. It is presented to the best contributed paper at the ICAE.

The other members of the winning team comprise Ms Maïmouna Ndour and Dr Papa Seck from AfricaRice, Mr Pieter Rutsaert and Prof Wim Verbeke from Ghent University and Prof Eric Tollens from the University of Leuven, Belgium.

They received the prize for their paper on “Experimental auctions, collective induction and choice shift: Willingness-to-pay for rice quality in Senegal,” which is forthcoming in the European Review of Agricultural Economics in 2013.

The paper presents the novel method developed by AfricaRice for conducting experimental auctions in the African context. An experimental auction creates a market in a laboratory setting which allows testing to determine whether consumer behavior can be altered under certain conditions. This provides more and different information than what can be obtained through classical surveys.

The novelty of the method is that it incorporates tools from social psychology to elicit social cognition processes in the laboratory, which helps measuring the impact of word-of-mouth on consumer valuation of quality attributes of rice. As such, the experiments generate interesting information on opinion leadership which can be used in viral marketing of local rice products in urban consumption zones throughout Africa.

AfricaRice has used experimental auctions as an important research tool to find out consumers' perceptions of different types of rice and the price they would be willing to pay for them. So far, it has conducted 12 experiments involving more than 1,600 women throughout Africa.

The experimental research program has confirmed that local rice can be competitive with imports in urban markets if quality is tailored to consumer standards and even more so if it is attractively packaged and labeled.

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