Mauritius is a small island of 1,965 square kilometers (186,475 hectares) tucked in the South West Indian Ocean, in latitude 20 degrees South and longitude 57 degrees east. To its west, at some 2,000 km is the African Continent, Mozambique and at some 855 km is Madagascar. In 2000, the population of Mauritius was estimated at around 1.2 million.
Agriculture occupies around 44% of the arable land area. Land under agricultural production has declined drastically. In 2002, land under agricultural cultivation was estimated to be approximately 80,000 hectares, of which sugar accounted for 90%. tea 1%, other crops 9%.
The contribution of agriculture in the economy has decreased over the years from 23% in the late 70’s to 16% in 1983 and 6% in 2000. Sugarcane constitutes the bulk of this share with 53%. Food-crops account for 17%, livestock 12%, while flowers, fruits and forestry account for the remaining 4% of the share of Agriculture in the GDP.
From a mono-crop economy in early 1970s, Mauritius has transformed its economy: the main pillars of the economy are tourism, textile, financial and recently information technology has joined in.
Constraints in growth of agriculture
Mauritius suffers from a number of inherent constraints, including inter alia: a narrow domestic market, land scarcity and a high cost of production which keeps rising. However, within various existing regional economic platforms, Mauritius is looking forward to contribute toward a regional development agenda by investing in the region. Mauritius has already ventured in investing in agriculture in the region.
The Way Forward 2005- 2015
It is essential to recognize the changes in the status of agriculture over the past few decades. Agriculture has changed from being a Mauritian industry to become part of a ‘small-island-development-state’ industry and is now part of a global industry. Aware that agriculture, the primary process in the food-chain, needs an effective processing component supported by effective marketing structures if it is to maintain returns, farmers, growers and fishers have come to terms with being part of a demand oriented market and are now sensitized to produce what the customers want rather than what they want to produce.
The paradigm shift of citizens is more for quality services, which are convenient, cost effective and. sensible. Consumers now are increasingly discerning, demanding, vocal, and more knowledgeable about agro and agri products. One distinct consumer trend has been the switch to products considered healthier.
For the promotion of agro-industrial sector and further development of the agricultural sector, the way forward lies in joining hands with all our stakeholders, through concerted strategies towards achieving our goals in the sugar, non sugar and fisheries sectors.
The Roadmap for the Sugar Sector for the 21st Century published in September 2005 comes to lay the foundation for mitigating the difficulties being encountered in the sugar sector.
Classified as a Net-Food-Importing-Country, the broad policy objectives of the Sugar Sector seek to, focus on the preservation of a stable and predictable revenue for our food imports; to safeguarding the livelihood of small planters; and ensuring the optimization of value added of sugar and its co-products.
Policies and strategies regarding the non-sugar sector will have to consider the challenges, namely:
a) Production of a larger volume of quality food-crops to satisfy the needs of a much higher inflow of tourists and meet the demand generated by a higher per capita consumption of fruits and vegetables of a population increasingly aspiring to healthier life style
b) Production of a wider variety of food-crops to cater for the growing demand for safer and higher quality food; and
c) Reducing cost of production through increased productivity per unit area of land and per unit cost of investment.
Strategies to meet these challenges 2005-2015
The future prospects for the Sugar Industry are not too bright with decreasing revenue, fierce increasing competition and limited scope for development. The way forward is in revisiting and reengineering of the existing service providing institutions in the Sugar Industry to respond to the new needs of stakeholders of the Sugar Sector.
Non Sugar Sectors
Adding value is vital for the survival of the first process in the food chain: Agriculture. Along the corporate lines, to be profitable it is essential that through growing, processing, distribution, and market chain, skills are applied by farmers, growers and fishers. At all points along the chain, ways are being found to facilitate the addition of value profitably: through strategies regarding Safety, Supply, Quality, and Innovation.
Operationalisation of the Food Technology Laboratory
Improving phytosanitary norms
Setting up of a Quarantine Station
In view of increasing effective land area:
a) Releasing 500 Arpents of land for small-and medium-sized agricultural production
b) Derocking of 2000 Arpents
c) Irrigation of 200 Arpents of land for small planters
d) Creation of database for agricultural land.
e) Easy access to seeds and planting material at Agricultural Service Centre Outlets, (the main points of sale are Barkly, Quatre-Bornes, Abercrombie and Feed Sale Centres)
Setting up of
I. the first Model Farm at Mapou to serve as demonstration and training centre
II. a Biotechnology Laboratory in view of further development in diversification in agriculture
III. a Marketing Intelligence Unit.
i) Introduction of new Anthurium Varieties
ii) Operationalisation of an Agro Business Desk at AREU for the promotion of agro- and agri- related activities
iii) Setting up of an Agricultural Export Promotion Board/Unit
iv) Creation of Hydroponic Village Park in view of further development in Hi-tech agriculture (build & lease/lease & build model)
v) Introduction of a National Agro Industry Entrepreneur Award to give recognition to best entrepreneurs
vi) Introduction of Pension Scheme for Planters
Setting up of a Village Laitier at Palmar as BOT
Introduction of Phytosanitary norms in the By-Catch-Operations /Semi Processing and Marketing of Fish
Formulation of a National Forest Policy
Setting up of an Arboretum in view of creating a Gene Bank for rare endemic plants.
The six main Departments/Unit of the Ministry are:
The twelve Para-statal bodies under the aegis of the Ministry are:
Mauritius Sugar Authority - formulates plans, policies and implements projects for the whole sugar industry.
Farmers Service Corporation - provides guidance and assistance to small planters with a view to enhancing efficiency and productivity in respect of sugarcane yield.
Sugar Planters Mechanical Pool Corporation - maintains and operates a pool of agricultural machinery with a view to participating fully in the achievement of sugar production targets, by the timely provision of these machines to planters' community.
Mauritius Bulk Sugar Terminal Corporation - receives, stores and ships sugar.
Sugar Cane Planters' Trust - manages stateland on behalf of planters who cannot manage the land leased to them.
FARC - plans and coordinates promotion of interdisciplinary collaboration and consensus building on priorities among Agri-food Research Institutions and stakeholders in Mauritius.
AREU - conducts research in non-sugar crop and livestock and provides extension services to farmers.
Agricultural Marketing Board - provides and ensures efficient marketing for all controlled products at fair and reasonable prices and operates or provides for operation of storage, handling, transport and processing facilities in respect of these products as well as the regulation of their standard and quality.
Mauritius Meat Authority - manages the Abattoir and controls and regulates the sale of meat and meat products. It is essentially concerned with the slaughter of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.
Irrigation Authority- studies the development of irrigation activities and makes proposals to CWA for prepartion schemes for the irrigation of specific areas.
Tea Board - regulates and controls the activities of the Tea Industry.
Tobacco Board- controls the production and sale of leaf tobacco, issues import licences for tobacco and tobacco products and fixes purchase and sale prices of locally produced leaf tobacco.
Small Planters Welfare Fund - responsible for the economic and social welfare of around 40,000 small planters in Mauritius and Rodrigues of sugarcane, tea, tobacco, or food crops including fruits and ornamentals on their own land or on leased land to an extent not exceeding 10 hectares.