BANDWAGON EFFECT IN THE POTATO SUBSECTOR

A photo of Shangi. The most common potato variety in the country.

The bandwagon effect is a psychological phenomenon in which people do something primarily because other people are doing it, regardless of their own beliefs, which they may ignore or override. In other words, as more people come to believe in something, others also “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of the underlying evidence. This tendency of following the actions or beliefs of others usually occurs because individuals directly prefer to conform or because they derive information from others.

This concept can be seen in the potato subsector in terms of potato variety preferred by farmers. The most common potato variety among farmers is Shangi. The adoption rate of this variety is very high. While few farmers site its short dormancy period as the main reason for choosing it over other varieties, the majority sight its popularity among fellow farmers as the major reason for adoption. So, farmer A uses it because famer B uses and when farmer C gets into potato farming , they will choose Shangi since farmer A and B are using it and the trend continue. This is because farmers pass information and even the seeds (Farmer saved) to one another. However, rarely do farmers take time to explore and learn about other available varieties or even try them out on a small scale in order to objectively compare potato varieties available in the market. This picking of verities simply based on its popularity, has resulted in the bandwagon effect in the seed potato subsector sector.

The other reason contributing to this is the fact that most farmers are unaware of other seed potato varieties and the few who are informed  are reluctant to try them out as they prefer “the tried and tested” Shangi. Through this, Shangi Seed producers have been under constant pressure to meet its demand.

The NPCK and partners have been using various platforms like the National potato conference, regional trade fairs and marketing forums to educate farmers on the availability of other varieties with equally unique positive attributes which they can consider and adopt in their farming. Overreliance on a single product in any industry is very risky and so too is the case in the potato sector. Diversification to other varieties will help cushion farmers against risks associated with relying on one variety. Such risks include disease outbreak which can affect a particular variety in a specific region or the entire potato sector.

In addition, the potato council publishes a potato variety catalogue every two years with most recent one published in 2019 with 60 potato varieties. The catalogue describes the varieties in terms of their use, tuber features, maturity period, yields, disease and pest resistance. A brief description of the growth characteristics has also been provided. Using the details provided, it is easy to identify each variety targeting specific market. It also has the names and contacts of seed potato merchants and out growers, which helps farmers, know where to source seed potato. You can access the softcopy by clicking here It is time to diversify!

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