SHYAMA PARSAD BISNAUTHSING
Ex-Business Development Manager – AREU

Small farmers have been the backbone of our country’s food sufficiency programmes before and after Independence. There is unanimous recognition of their contribution to the economic and social development of our country.

In a context of globalization and technological innovation, the population of these farmers had decreased drastically as they were not equipped to deal with the sweeping changes and their livelihood is no longer economically sustainable. The Covid-19 and confinement are bound to bring further changes in their ways of production as well as day-to-day living. Since recent years, agricultural productions have decreased by more than half in case of many crops, thus creating an increase in the price of many commodities and also resorting to importation to meet the demand. Further year in and year out since quite some time now, the first three to four months and the last two months (in exceptional circumstances), of each year are proving to be very difficult for the farmers, market traders, consumers and also for Government in so far as vegetables and fruit production and provision for subsidies are concerned due to bad agro climatic conditions and fruit damage caused by bats etc. In the future, the global need for food and nutrition will be increased by around 50% from the current levels in a sustainable way.

If nothing is done to come to their rescue and provide effective support schemes for their survival, their future will be bleak as is the case for small sugar cane planters.  Already a reduction in production areas and farmers is being noted while the increasing demand for quality and value added vegetables is regularly being observed.

Should our small famers in the non-sugar agriculture disappear, there is the risk of a further concentration of economic power in the hands of large non-sugar agriculture operators, thus creating a situation of quasi monopoly.

Against this foregoing backdrop, the following proposals are being made to prevent the slow demise of this important category of non-sugar agriculture stakeholders.

The overall aim of the proposals is to :

• Make farming a more remunerative economic activity through strengthening of planters’ efforts, risk mitigation and promotion of agri business entrepreneurship.

• Strengthen planters earning potential through the creation of required pre- and post-harvest infrastructure that increases access to quality inputs, storage and market facilities etc.

• Enable planters to make informed decisions and choices by providing them with up to date farming related reliable information.

Budget Proposals

• To take stock of all impediments impacting the non-sugar agriculture sector through the thorough analysis of all available Data concerning Crop and Livestock production in Mauritius – Past, Present and Projected studies ;

• To revisit, in the light of the stocktaking exercise   the roles and objectives of the Agricultural Marketing Board, Agricultural Services, Food and Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (more specially it’s Extension Services) and other related organisations in the non-sugar sector and the Development Bank of Mauritius so that these institutions can tailor-make schemes and provide dedicated facilities and programs to the non-sugar planters;

• To promote value chain production through innovative production and marketing models that will help planters increase their income as well as encourage productivity and profitability. Those will include transformation programs that will in turn create opportunities for young entrepreneurs (as many are expected to join the wagon with the impending economic crisis looming ahead) and take care of the surplus agro production – the cause of wastage, spoilage and low revenue for the producers ;

• To mitigate risk of planters by focusing on additional income-generating activities like integrated farming, mushroom production, bee keeping, aromatic and medicinal plant cultivation, horticulture and floriculture etc.

• To create and support formation of Farmer Producer Companies (FPC) and FPC Management Companies in the same line as other production and financial companies. Those will act as a major vehicle for professionalizing the farming experiences into a business ventures and will also undertake most farming and post farming and production activities. This concept will help mobilise all available resources for modernizing the non-sugar agriculture. Unemployed graduates will be encouraged to embark in the process through incubation programs.

• Introduce the application of Information Technology in the day-to-day Farm Management Programs by creating IT Applications and Entreprise Resource Planning that would be user friendly. Create and use Call Centers in the process and also envisage the introduction and application of Robotics in the endeavor.

• To revive the Young Farmers movement and Agricultural Youth Programs into a National Agricultural Youth Program that would focus on equipping the youth with knowledge through skill development, innovation and agri-entrepreneurship-based agribusiness models thus ensuring a perennial system for the longevity of agricultural production.

• Creation of a skill development section which would focus on the enhancement of entrepreneurial skills to raise production and farm income as well as improving employment opportunities and in allied fields.

• To revisit the allocation of state lands for agricultural purposes and ensure that optimum utilization is being made of the allotted plots.

• To introduce an advanced system of Agricultural Technology Diffusion Scheme.

• To undertake a Branding Exercise for the Mauritian Farm Products that would be export-oriented. The Economic Development Board will be called to find markets under the already existing treaties with other countries and Organisations regrouping / Associations of countries.

• To introduce a Non-sugar Agriculture Insurance Scheme

The end result will be to double or triple the planters’ income through 1) better and functional training, 2) capital availability, 3) application of Information Technology and 4) markets outlets.