Agriculture is one of the main economic activities of Mauritius. Its importance is explained by the following facts:
(i) agriculture occupies more than half of the land area
(ii) agriculture produces food and raw materials
(iii) a large number of people are employed in agriculture and agriculture-related jobs
(iv) many agricultural goods are produced for export
(v) the net foreign exchange earnings from the export of agriculture goods are greater than
those of any other exported goods.
Agriculture and Land-Use
The total area of Mauritius is 194,494 hectares, out of which, about 110,796 hectares are productive agricultural lands.
CROPS PRODUCED IN MAURITIUS
The crops produced in Mauritius are sugarcane, tea, tobacco, groundnut, maize, onion, garlic, potato, other vegetables, fruits, and flowers.
Sugarcane is the most important crop in Mauritius because of the following reasons:
(i) The climate and soil are suitable for its cultivation.
(ii) The planters have long experience in its cultivation.
(iii) The infrastructure for the processing of sugarcane, storage and marketing of sugar is
available and has been improved.
(iv) Mauritius has a guaranteed market for the sale of sugar to the European Common Market.
(v) Sugarcane is less susceptible to cyclone damage.
(vi) Different varieties of sugarcane have been produced locally. This has made it possible to grow
sugarcane in the humid, sub-humid and dry regions of the island.
(vii) The by-products of sugarcane are of economic importance.
(a) Molasses are exported.
(b) Molasses and bagasse are used in local industries.
Tea, unlike sugarcane, is grown only in some regions of Mauritius. These regions lie on the central plateau where
rainfall is high and the soil is easily drained. Mauritius produced 36,162 tones of green tea leaves in 1988, from
which 6,854 tones of black tea (dried tea) were manufactured. 79.3% of the Mauritian tea is exported. Our revenues
from tea depend on its price on the world market. As the price of tea fluctuates, the revenues from it are not stable and has been abondoned by most farmers.
In Mauritius, Tobacco is grown mostly in the districts of Pamplemousses, Rivière du Rempart and Flacq. It grows
well under a warm climate and in sandy soil. 967 tones of tobacco leaves were produced in 1988. All the tobacco produced locally is used in making cigarettes which are consumed locally
Mauritius is almost self-sufficient in potatoes. However, when the crop is affected by cyclones, droughts or
diseases there is a temporary shortage on the market. In such circumstances, the Agricultural Marketing Board imports a certain quantity to make up for this shortage.
In 1988, 12,770 tones of potatoes were produced and sold on the local market. They are mainly grown in the
interlines of sugarcane. Normally, one tone of “seed” can yield eight tones of potatoes. Parts of the seeds are produced locally and the rest is imported by the Agricultural Marketing Board.
Vegetables are grown almost all over the island. However, some regions are more suitable for the cultivation of
some of them. The production of vegetables is seasonable. With certain vegetables are in abundance, their prices
are relatively low. During off-seasons and owing to adverse climatic conditions, vegetables become scarce and very expensive.
Mauritius is self-sufficient in vegetables. They are produced mainly by the sugar estates and vegetable
growers. Vegetables are mostly consumed fresh. They contain vitamins and minerals which are important in our diet.
Many fruits are grown in Mauritius but only bananas, pineapples and watermelons are produced on a commercial
scale. Seasonal fruits like litchis, longanes and mangoes are mostly produced in orchards and in private yards. A
small quantity of local fruits is exported. Local fruits are very rich in minerals and vitamins and should be consumed
regularly. The local fruit production does not meet our demand. A large quantity of fruits is imported especially
during winter when the local production is low. The government is encouraging the cultivation of citrus fruits to reduce imports.
A large variety of flowers are grown in places like Vacoas, Moka and Quatre-Bornes. Only anthurium, andreanum
and orchids are grown on a commercial scale for export. In 1988, 5.9 million anthurium flowers worth Rs 23.2 million
were exported. However, there is a demand for more and therefore the cultivation of such flowers should be encouraged.
LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION IN MAURITIUS
Mauritius is a small country and does not have enough pastures for grazing. The population consumes large
quantities of beef, mutton, goat’s meat and chicken. The bulk of beef is imported. A relatively small quantity of
meat is produced by the sugar estates in feedlots and ranches while by small farmers in stables. The animals are fed with canetops, grass and commercial animal feed.
Mauritius is almost self-sufficient in chicken. Chicken is produced by large commercial enterprises and also by
small farmers. The birds are fed with chicken feed processed by the local feed factories. Deer is raised in chassées ad in feedlots. During the hunting period, venison is available on the market.
LIVESTOCK IN MAURITIUS
The livestock population in Mauritius is not as large as it is in some countries. Livestock production has not
increased rapidly to meet the rising local demand of meat, milk and other livestock products.
Up to 1950, most of the sugarcane was transported to factories in carts drawn by draught cattle. Meat and milk
demand of the country has been satisfied, to a large extent, by local livestock breeders.
However, even if there has been an increase in human population, the cattle population has decreased remarkably.
Some of the factors which have led to the decline in the cattle population are:
(i) the limited area of the land available for pastures
(ii) the lack of fodder and animal feed
(iii) the increase in the imports of dried milk powder
(iv) the extensive replacement of manure by chemical fertilizers in crop production
(v) the introduction of mechanical transport such as lorries and vans.
Cattle are reared mainly for meat and milk by two distinct economical groups, namely the small breeders and the large-scale producers.
(i) The small breeders are about 9,000 and live in the countryside. They rare cattle in the traditional way
with little know-how, limited facilities and lack of financial resources
(ii) The large-scale producers rear cattle using scientific know-how and modern techniques with adequate
financial resources. Their farms are on the sugar estates. They keep cattle:
(a) in open pastures for example at Volmar, St Felix, F.U.E.L, Plaines des Roches, Beau Champ and La Prairie
(b) in feedlots for example at Roches Brunes, Gambier Farms, Sunset Farms, Savannah, and St Antoine.
Cattle breeds in Mauritius
The ‘Creole’, a local breed whose parents are from Britanny in France, is a dual-purpose animal, which is suitable for
both meat and milk. It is well adapted to local conditions and is reared by most small breeders. However, crosses of the Friesian, an exotic breed from Netherlands, are also popular.