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Friday, 25 January 2013 12:00

Food Security Strategic Plan 2013-2015 : Main insights

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The Food Security Strategy Plan 2013-2015, a sequel to the 2007-2011 Plan, is out. The new plan takes into account all the shortcomings experienced under the previous plan. It also takes into consideration all challenges facing the agricultural sector and the current trends observed in the agro-industry.
The main objectives of the plan is to improve the level of self sufficiency in various commodities, promote export and create new opportunities for farmers, entrepreneurs and rural families to increase farm income and productivity while conserving the natural biodiversity and providing safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply.

The report concedes that targeting 100% self-sufficiency in food production is not feasible. A realistic strategy would be to target around 33% self-sufficiency level with the objective of increasing the annual food crop production from 115,000t to reach 130,000t by the year 2015. With respect to milk and meat a self sufficiency of 10% and 15% respectively is targeted with the objective of increasing milk production from 5.9 M litres to 14 M litres and meat production from 1,300t to 2,300t by the year 2015.  

Salient features
The main areas of intervention for 2013 to 2015 relate to the implementation of the following actions and incentives:
  • Facilitating access to agricultural land;
  • Mechanisation of farm activities in crop (land preparation, direct sowing, etc…) and livestock  (milking, cleaning, fodder harvesting, etc..) production;
  • R&D activities on development of sustainable agricultural practices based on resource conservation technologies and best management practices to optimise use of natural resources (land, water, organic matter), crop varieties, livestock breeds, feed resources and to improve productivity of livestock and crops such as potato, onion, pulses, garlic, maize and mushroom and local fruits and protect the natural environment;
  • Provision of efficient and effective institutional support and services;
  • Support to farmers to embark on production of planting materials (seed and seedlings) for strategic crops including underutilized fruits species and, production of breeding animals;
  • Provision of facilities for modernising existing and setting up of new livestock farms;
  • Setting up of new schemes and facilitating access to existing and new schemes for  motivating farmers in increasing production and productivity;
  • Capacity building for production of primary and value added products; and
  • Facilitating access to market.

Financing
The cost of financing the various actions, schemes and incentives proposed in the plan is estimated at nearly one billion rupees.  This comprises Rs 458 million for the Crop Sector, Rs 457 million for the Livestock Sector and Rs 171 million for Rodrigues (Rs 94 million for Livestock and Rs 77 million for the Crop Sector).  

Meeting one third of our food requirements
To achieve the 33% set target in 2015, it proposed that 1,075ha of agricultural land be initially released to increase production of onion, potato, garlic, maize, fruits and fodder / pasture for meat and milk production.

Main challenges
The non-sugarcane agricultural sector in Mauritius is faced with several challenges, the main ones being:
  • Access to new technologies;
  • High cost of key inputs mainly labour cost and high prices of feeds, logistic and agro-chemicals;
  • Inadequate mechanisation and insufficient irrigation facilities;
  • Inadequate planning of production as per market demand;
  • Scarcity of raw materials for agro-industries;
  • Presence of various non-economic factors which affect predictability of production, such as pest incidence and adverse climatic conditions;
  • Inadequate investment and planning in research, intensive technologies, and capacity building;
  • Low uptake of modern management practices;
  • Gradual erosion of the resource base, that is land and labour, in favour of more remunerative sectors such as manufacturing, tourism, and services;
  • Failure of farmers grouping;
  • Resistance to change and unwillingness to take risk;
  • Certification;
  • Scarcity of land for pastures and fodder production.

New opportunities

Mushroom
The current local production of mushroom is estimated at 50 tonnes annually.  About 28,134 tonnes of mushrooms (fresh/chilled, dried, preserved or canned of around MRU 121 million (CIF Value) were imported in 2010 to meet the local demand. With the expansion of the tourist industry and increase in consumer preference, the demand for mushroom is likely to increase in years to come. Mushroom production must be expanded and diversified. Mushrooms are commonly cultivated on agro wastes and can contribute to environment friendly in terms of agricultural waste recycling.

Maize
Maize production has declined from 459 tonnes in 2008 to 320 tonnes in 2011.  On the other hand, the annual consumption of dry shelled maize is estimated to be around 100,000 tonnes.  Production has almost been abandoned because imported maize is less expensive that the local produce. Production of maize is feasible as there is a market demand for green cobs, baby corns and shelled maize for animal feed.  A production of 7,500 tonnes of green maize by 2015 representing 10% of imports is initially proposed.  

Fruit Sector
Orchard development
Production of fruits other than pineapple, banana and litchi is either confined to backyard or on land not suitable for sugar cane. This explains the scarcity of local fruits on the local market and even their quality is often poor due to mishandling and absence of norms. Sustainable fruit production at the national level is envisaged by setting up of model orchards. Fruit production should be managed in a professional way with modern technologies. Hence, it is important to establish model fruit orchards in the different agro-climatic zones in Mauritius. The model plots will showcase the opportunities around fruit production and marketing.

Production of raw materials for the agro-processing sector
Processing tomato
4 varieties of tomatoes suitable for agro-processing into value added products such as tomato ketchup, puree and whole peeled tomato in cans have been introduced.

Cassava
15 cassava varieties were found suitable for flour making that can be used in pure form for noodle and cake and mixed with 25 to 50% wheat flour for western and Asian bread. The local sweet potato variety has produced highly acceptable flour. When mixed with wheat flour in the proportion of 25 to 50%, western and Asian bread and pastries have been produced.

Bread fruit
3 distinct Bread fruit cultivars (BES, Osman and Chin) have been identified with different morphological and postharvest characteristics. By January 2012, 160 breadfruit plants, produced from experimental materials have been put at the disposal of growers. It was also demonstrated that trees can be rejuvenated and maintained at a manageable height by pruning and post pruning care.  2 clones have been found suitable for flour making and 1 protocol has been developed for the production of breadfruit flour. Blends with wheat flour have been prepared and recipes developed for Western and Indian bread and pastry.

Banana
The variety, Banane Carrée, has been found most suitable for mixed with wheat flour in the proportion of 30 to 50%, western and Asian bread and pastries can be produced.

Private sector involvement
The Plan recommends that Food Security Fund for the next 3 years needs to be driven by the Private Sector together with other primary producers. The Government should act as a facilitator and provide necessary support to ensure that the set targets are achieved. This will also ensure that farmers are empowered to increase their competiveness to meet the challenges of globalisation.

Shaffick Hamuth

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