Sugar’s sweet no more
With Mauritian sugar production estimated to fall to 410,000 tonnes by the end of the year the government has been forced to authorize imports totaling 125,000 tonnes to meet domestic consumption in the first quarter of 2014. (Image: Business Daily Africa)
Sugar, once the mainstay of the island economy, now leaves a bitter taste in the government’s mouth. With Mauritian sugar production estimated to fall to 410,000 tonnes by the end of the year the government has been forced to authorize imports totaling 125,000 tonnes to meet domestic consumption in the first quarter of 2014.
According to the Mauritius Sugarcane Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), the fall in sugar production has arisen on the back of drastic climatic change and low rainfall recorded across the island nation.
The MSIRI’s Crop Analysis report of September gives a gloomy forecast for sugar production due to climate change and water shortage affecting crop yields. MSIRI representatives have indicated that the forecast for the year has been revised downwards to 410,000 tonnes, while 425,000 tonnes of sugar output was originally targeted.
The downward revision is in line with the achievement of 320,397 tonnes till date, according to MSIRI’s November bulletin on the evolution of the sugar campaign. It may be noted that total sugar production in 2012 stood at 409,200 tonnes of which 307,722 tonnes had been achieved till the corresponding period a year ago. This is a worrying trend indeed, as figures from Statistics Mauritius show that sugar production stood at 435,310 tonnes in 2011, dropped by 6% in 2012, and now, it appears that sugar production will be stagnant for 2013.
According to the Crop Analysis report, the sucrose content of the cane has declined to 15 per cent, creating panic among farmers. Against the corresponding period a year ago, sucrose content to-date is similar in the West and Centre, but lower by 0.4% in the East and by 0.2% in both the North and the South.
Furthermore, the yield tabulated by the Crop Estimate Coordinating Committee held last week has established a downward trend in production.
Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Mauritian Chamber of Agriculture have also confirmed the figures.
Established sugar cane producers based in Mauritius, noteworthy being Omnicane and Terra, have seen declining production while investing in service based industries in recent years.
What has compounded the issue of low production is that – as crop yields dived due to low rainfall and other climate changes – many large-scale producers have switched to other business ventures, say local business analysts.
Source: Mauritius Sugarcane Industry Research Institute, Africa Review