At the time of independence in 1968, Mauritius inherited a monocrop economy based on sugarcane. The country had to spend a large part of the revenue obtained from the export of
sugar to import its food requirements, mainly rice, flour, pulses, chicken, beef, onions and milk products. However, apart from flour, all the other food items mentioned could be produced partly or even
totally in Mauritius. Thus, imports could be reduced and foreign exchange saved. For this reason, the government decided to diversity our agriculture.
Agricultural diversification in Mauritius
Agriculture diversification means:
(i) producing crops and livestock that were not being produced so far
(ii) producing crops and livestock, other than the main ones in larger quantities.
In Mauritius, the government decided that diversification should not be at the expense of sugarcane, i.e. sugarcane should not be replaced, even partly. But other crops such as
potatoes and maize and livestock should be produced in larger quantities and new crops introduced (e.g. anthurium).
The government offered a number of incentives to farmers to ensure the success of the diversification programme:
(i) agricultural credit, i.e. financial loans from bank
(ii) a subsidy on the price of certain commodities
(iii) a guaranteed price was offered for some commodities
(iv) facilities were made available to livestock breeders.
After nearly 20 years, it can be said that Mauritius has succeeded in a certain measure in its diversification program. Today the country is more than 33 % self-sufficient in
its food requirements.
Mauritius has derived many advantages from its agricultural diversification programs. These advantages are:
(i) imports have been reduced and foreign currencies saved
(ii) employment has been created
(iii) our dependence on sugar has been reduced
(iv) the country has become self-sufficient in certain commodities
(v) new crops help to earn additional foreign currencies.
When a country depends too much on one single crop, it runs certain risks. If the crop is severely affected by adverse weather conditions, pests and diseases or low market
prices, the country may face an economical crisis.