D.Rees, R. Kapinga, S. Jeremiah and E. Rwiza
Sweetpotato is an important staple crop in many areas of Tanzania although countrywide it ranks third after cassava and round potato. Surveys indicate that lack of high yielding, early maturing varieties with desirable storage root quality characteristics is a major constraint. For a successful breeding program to address this it is vital to define the quality characteristics preferred by consumers. A review of existing information on farmers’ preferences showed that post-harvest qualities ranked almost as high as production characteristics in their variety selection. The main criteria in order of importance were: high yield, early maturity, sweetness, disease and pest tolerance, low fibre content, root firmness, and extended in-ground storability. Root shape, size and processing qualities were specific to particular locations which reflected very much on the utilization aspect. As no information existed on the preference of urban consumers, an increasingly important group in Tanzania, a survey was conducted for consumers and traders in three districts of the Lake Zone. The main criteria mentioned for both groups were: starchiness/flouriness, taste, cooking time, and color of root flesh/skin. To help define these complex criteria, information was collected on specific varieties preferred or rejected and the main reasons. Work is on to use an expert taste panel on-station to assess a range of cultivars for these criteria and compare them. With varieties preferred by consumers, the feasibility of using this method within a breeding program will be assessed.