Mar 03

Locally Grown Ethnic Greens and Herbs: Demand Assessments and Production Opportunities for East Coast Farmers

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Purple Amaranth - an ancient high-protein plant from South America, with leaves are among the most nutritious of vegetable greens

Hispanics and Asians living in the United States had a combined purchasing power of almost $1.5 trillion in 2009, representing a major market opportunity for farmers on the East Coast. The primary focus of this project was to analyze consumer demand for ethnic greens/herbs, understand willingness to pay a premium for fresh leafy greens/herbs, document ethnic consumers’ preferences for local produce, and better understand demographic characteristics of likely buyers. The motivation for studying demand for ethnic greens/herbs is based on size of the Asians and Hispanic immigrant population, in this region. A 2006 consumer survey of the total ethnic produce market on the East Coast was estimated at more than $1 billion. To increase profitability and sustainability, many farmers have begun growing specialty crops, to target this sizeable horticultural market.

During 2010, we conducted four online focus group sessions with consumers who identified with one of four ethnic groups of interest (Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Asian Indians and Chinese), who identified a final list of 40 ethnic greens and herbs. Based on 2010 census data, there are 1.3 million Asian Indians, 1.2 million Chinese, about 3 million Mexicans, and 3.6 million Puerto Ricans in Washington, DC and the 16 Eastern US states covered by our study. A telephone survey instrument was developed, and a total of 1,117 interview samples were randomly collected from these target audiences. On average, Asian Indians spent $112 dollars per month; Chinese consumers spent $87 per month; Mexican consumers and Puerto Rican consumers spent $79 and $85 per month, respectively, on ethnic greens and herbs.

Based on the purchasing behavior and numbers of consumers in each of these demographics, the potential farm-gate value of these ethnic vegetables could conservatively be over $200 million per year in Washington DC and 16 US states covered by the study. Our team has utilized a number of follow-up strategies to reach potential producers and extension specialists. An online webinar was conducted by team members, during which outcomes of this survey were presented (see http://www.primetechrepair.com/symp//EthnicCrops/Ramu_Govindasamy/player.htm)
Team members have also developed a world crop website to promote outreach to clientele at http://www.worldcrops.org/