Economic feasibility of an augmentative biological control industry in Niger
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Farmers in Niger are vulnerable to high millet yield losses due to the millet head miner, Heliocheilus albipunctella De Joannis (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), for which pest control options are limited. Researchers have developed a procedure to multiply and spread an augmentative biological control agent Habrobracon hebetor Say (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) which is effective in limiting millet yield losses due to the pest. This study assesses the economic viability of small businesses to produce and sell biological control agents. It analyzes the profitability of the businesses under alternative pricing regimes given estimated costs to produce and distribute biological control agents. The economic assessment provides budget analysis for potential businesses and discusses options for scaling, price setting, and organizing. Our study suggests that the small H. hebetor industry should turn a profit in Niger at relatively low prices for the biological control agents of $3.00-$4.00 per bag with 15 bags needed per village. Competitive wages are achievable for the businesses that sell to at least 13 villages. Each business would hire three workers from late May to late August. Commercialization of H. hebetor would generate opportunities for wide geographic distribution of the technology on a sustainable basis in Niger.