From boutique to mainstream: Upscaling wildlife-friendly farming through consumer premiums

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    Abstract

    Wildlife-friendly produce shows promise in addressing the disconnect between consumers' choices and the loss of biodiversity from agriculture. However, the scope of programs and their contribution to conservation remain limited. An improved understanding of specific markets, combined with auspicious scenarios, could address this. In Australia's Murray-Darling Basin, rice fields support the largest known breeding population of the Australasian bittern, a globally endangered waterbird. We surveyed 1478 Australian consumers about their values for “bittern-friendly” rice. To help support successful bittern breeding, consumers' mean willingness-to-pay for a 1-kg product, normally $3.00, was $4.12—a premium of 37%—while the inferred valuation for their nearest neighbor was $3.79, a 26% premium. In a choice experiment, rice directly sourced from bittern-friendly rice growers attracted the highest premium, approaching 200%, but conventional rice with indirect support for bittern-friendly growers was also highly valued. Consumers valued endorsement and certification labels from all organizations more than individual ones, and would pay additional premiums for reduced pesticide use or organic products. Feasibility of broad-scale, consumer-funded incentive programs is emphasized by an engaging narrative and a supportive, cohesive rice industry. Similar opportunities likely exist where consumers can be central to endangered species conservation, expanding wildlife-friendly farming coverage.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere12730
    Pages (from-to)1-14
    Number of pages14
    JournalConservation Science and Practice
    Volume4
    Issue number7
    Early online date20 May 2022
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

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