Optimising behaviour of round potato farmers in southern highlands of Tanzania

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Production and consumption of round potatoes have been increasing in Tanzania. This is evidenced by the increase of the urban street chips vendors; local smallholder crisps processors; and large scale processors such as CRISPO Company at Iringa. The increase in consumption of round potato is due mainly to increased economic activities, population increase, urbanisation, increase in number of fast food restaurants, and tourism which change eating habits and consumer preferences towards easy to cook, pre-prepared and processed foods such as potato chips and crisps. It is also known that there are various round potato varieties with different characteristics such as size, shape, taste, yield, and processing qualities. Thus, different varieties may have different markets and hence profitability. According to economic theory, a farmer is expected to grow varieties that promise to yield the maximum profit. However, studies done in other countries indicate that smallholder farmers were guided by factors other than profit maximisation. Therefore, this study analysed the optimisation behaviour of smallholder round potato farmers in Southern Highlands of Tanzania basing on four questions. How do farmers allot land to various crops? What guides farmers’ selection for the round potato varieties they grow? Are there variations in profitability among round potato varieties? And are round potato farmers maximisers of profit? Results show that there were variations in profitability among varieties. Also, farmers’ decisions regarding variety selections, time of sale and acreage decisions were not guided by profit maximisation. Selling price of the previous season and profitability did have any effect on variety selections. The study concludes that smallholder round potato farmers were not optimisers of profit. Understanding farmers’ optimisation behaviour and variety preferences is important in informing relevant policies as input to the current government effort of commercialising smallholder production, poverty reduction, and future variety development and diffusion.



Southern Highlands, Tanzania, Round potato farmers, Farmers behaviour, Round potatoes