As part of her master’s program in the Department of Natural Resources Economics of the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences at SQU, Arwa Al Ma’mari, recently conducted a study to investigate the level of consumer ethnocentrism in Oman and willingness to pay for locally produced valued added food products. Dr Msafiri Daudi Mbaga, Associate Professor in the Department supervised Arwa’s research. The Oman government is currently engaged in a comprehensive economic diversification strategy to reduce dependency on oil export. The government’s diversification strategies put emphasis on, among other things, sectors such as agriculture and fisheries to contribute to job creation, food security and the overall growth of the Oman economy. The success of the diversification strategies by the Oman government would, among other things, depend on the success of the promotion of market demand for “locally produced value added food products”. Therefore, investigating and understanding consumer attitudes toward these products becomes important.
Consumer Ethnocentrism is the belief held by consumers about the appropriateness and morality of purchasing imported products. For ethnocentric consumers purchasing imported products is seen as unpatriotic because it has an adverse impact on the domestic economy. Hence, ethnocentric consumers tend to favour purchasing locally-produced products than foreign produced products. As a strategy to entice consumers into viewing locally produced products positively against imported products, governments and businesses have been known to engage in targeted “Buy Local” campaigns. In Oman, for example, there is the ‘Origin Oman’ which is a domestic campaign to promote Oman produced products and services. At the market place, therefore, Oman consumers are faced with a choice between locally-produced products (supported and promoted by the ‘Origin Oman’ and “Buy Local” campaigns) and imported products.
In this study, seven locally produced (processed) food commodities were investigated. Data was collected by means of a questionnaire. The mall intercept approach was employed to collect data. A total of 345 respondent shoppers were interviewed. The sample comprised mostly Omani at 71 per cent. Males and females were 68 and 32 per cent respectively. The majority of respondents (85.4 per cent) were between 20 and 50 years old. Results showed that Omani consumers are strongly ethnocentric because the mean score obtained which is 59.2, is significantly above the middle of the range of the CETSCALE Score (17 to 85) which is 51.
The majority of consumers who participated in the study indicated that they would buy locally produced valued added food products when the price and quality of the products are as good as imported ones. The consumers indicated that they would buy products that offer the best value for money, regardless of whether they are locally produced in Oman or imported. Almost a half of the respondents stated that Oman locally produced value added food products were not of poorer quality. With regard to shopping for locally produced valued added food products, a good percentage of the respondents indicated that they specifically look for specific local brands when they shop for food. More than a half of the respondents feel that Oman products are highly priced.
With regard to the attitudes of Omani consumers towards “Origin Oman” and “Buy Local” campaigns, the majority of respondents (87.6%) are in favor of the government participation in encouraging Omanis to buy locally produced value added food products, compared to (91%) who said the industry should do it. Only (48.2%) of the respondents agreed that the “Buy Local” campaign have been successful in persuading Omanis to think about changing their food shopping habits. With regard to job opportunities, (86.7%) thought that buying Omani locally produced value added food products would create work opportunities in Oman. This view is supported by (92.2%) of respondents who are of the opinion that buying Omani locally produced food products will help Oman economy. Respondents also indicated overwhelmingly (85.8%) that the Oman agricultural industry must be more competitive.
In summary, looking at these results, there appears to be a strong support by Omani consumers for the “Origin Oman” and “Buy Local” campaigns. At the same time, consumers want the agricultural industry to be competitive. Furthermore, Omani consumers understand that buying locally produced food products would create jobs in Oman and help the economy.
Results of this study could be used to support the government efforts to diversify the economy which is a matter of priority now. Furthermore, this study results provide information that might be potentially useful to investors in the agricultural and fisheries sector of the Oman economy. Farmers, businesses and the government should pay attention to the quality of local products. At policy level, it is clear from the study that the “Origin Oman” and “Buy Local” campaigns are perceived to be not fully successful; consumers think more should be done jointly by the government and the industry.
For the campaign to achieve its objectives, it may be advisable to focus on the “Local”, “Safety”, “Quality”, “Taste”, “Halal” and “Freshness” attributes which were identified as being the leading attributes behind consumer preference for locally produce products. In addition, businesses should improve the “Product Appearance” and “Presentation” to increase their market share and as a result, create more new jobs, and hence help the Omani economy. Dr Mbaga indicated that efforts are under way to expand this study to cover more locally produced value added products in Oman. Interested businesses may contact the researcher by email to firstname.lastname@example.org