What’s it Worth: Pricing Toxin-free Peanuts in Haiti

From MFK Agriculture Research and Extension Program Specialist Ben Wiseman

Peanut lovers in Haiti have a high risk of exposure to aflatoxin – a dangerous toxin that can lead to stunted growth, a weakened immune system or even liver cancer. Since peanuts grown in Haiti often have elevated levels of aflatoxin, MFK screens all local peanut purchases for the toxin at the buying point. Working with local aggregators, MFK has established a reliable protocol to avoid purchasing peanuts with a high level of aflatoxin. This protects the children using the life-saving Medika Mamba from harmful effects of aflatoxin. However, the typical peanut consumer in Haiti does not have those same protections. There is currently no safeguard to protect the general peanut consumer in Haiti from aflatoxin.

Recently, MFK has been thinking beyond our own peanut purchases, and how we can contribute to more systemic changes to reduce aflatoxin throughout Haiti’s peanut market. For example, MFK is considering how peanut butter consumers can avoid the health risks of aflatoxin. Low-aflatoxin peanut butter is a little more expensive to produce, therefore, more expensive to purchase. Will consumers be willing to pay the higher price of controlling aflatoxin?

Yousenie selling low-aflatoxin peanut butter at market.
Yousenie selling low-aflatoxin peanut butter at market.

 

Agroeconomist Phendy Jacques is currently stationed at MFK researching this question. MFK, in partnership with Université Laval and the Canadian International Development and Research Centre, aims to determine the premium consumers are willing to pay for aflatoxin-free peanut butter. Phendy and his team are conducting surveys and experimental sales and have already begun to analyze and report the findings of the study. The outcomes of the research will shed light on consumer behavior, and will be helpful to government entities involved in creating food safety standards, as well as commercial entities interested in marketing peanut butter for Haitian consumers.

Jennifer surveying peanut butter consumers.
Part of Phendy’s research team, Jennifer is surveying local consumers.

 

It is exciting for the nutritional work of MFK to be extending beyond the creation of Medika Mamba for malnourished children and also directly address sources of nutritional harm. Less aflatoxin on the market will improve the nutritional landscape for everyone.

This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of IDRC or its Board of Governors neither of Université Laval.