ARVIN BOOLELL

Following the demise of the Sugar Protocol in 2009 sugar producers have to adapt to market forces. I believe the sector is viable and all stakeholders have to act in the interests of the cane industry which was the mainstay of the economy. Research and Development, Innovation and technological spillovers are the key to success.

The MSIRI has to reinvent itself and there is no room for complacency if we want to scale up the innovation index. People sell products with innovative ideas for a better remunerative price. MSS legislation should be reviewed to empower the syndicate to market sugar and all byproducts. The membership of the syndicate has to be strengthened to ensure fair representation and better oversight.

The request of Ti-Planter for a fair revenue of Rs 2500 per tonne of ‘standing cane’ can be a reality and not a myth.

Some of the proposals made at the meeting of Ti-Planter were thought-provoking.

The Challenges are daunting and there is a clarion call by all stakeholders and the nation at large to save the sector. If our expertise is sought after on the African Continent it means that we have the skills to make the sector viable.

A deliberate depreciation of rupee by Government or funding from CEB is not even a partial solution.

On the international market  prices are being distorted

A production decline of 4 million tonnes on the EU market this year, compared with the record crop of 21 M tonnes in 2017, will easily be narrowed by surplus countries. On the other hand, the subsidies provided by India, being contested by Australia, Brazil and Guatemala at the WTO, on the ground that they are inconsistent with its obligations, will further delay a surge in

global sugar prices, which are languishing below the cost of production at 12 US cents per pound.

The South American country claims India doubled the minimum price for sugarcane since the 2011/12 crop year with Indian sugar excess soaring in 2018/19 to 6 million tonnes from a deficit of 6 million tonnes 2 years before.

The government of India on Wednesday 28/8/2019 approved an export subsidy of Indian rupees 10,448 per tonne of sugar up to a maximum of 6 million tonnes at an estimated cost of Indian rupees 6,268 crore, an official statement.

Against this backdrop of daunting challenges there is plenty of room for

Dialogue and consultation. Confrontation is not the way forward.

 ORGANIC LINK

The Organic link between planters and Corporate sector (Miller-PLANTERS) is vital. Our objective to produce 400,000 tonnes of sugar and new clusters together with handling, processing and marketing give us the competitive edge.

The sector needs a comprehensive review and the time for action is long overdue. What will the World Bank tell us that we already don’t know ? URA and MCIA cannot be silent bystanders.

The Utilities Regulatory Authority and the MCIA have unfettered powers to call for papers, persons to address the pertinent issue of transparency, accountability for fair and equitable distribution of revenue from sale of sugar and downstream products. The findings of the Report of Hunton & Williams LLP relating to “an economic evaluation of bagasse” should be disclosed to the public.

IDEAS AND SKILLS

They have to LOCK HORNS FOR RETHINKING and INNOVATION. MAKE IN MAURITIUS – MAKE THE DIFFERENCE.

Worthy ideas always come from the impatience of the young. It was Former PM of India Manmohan Singh who urged shapers and movers of policy to respect the impatience of the young. Yan Hookoomsing of AKNL is one of those eager young persons.

He has proposed the democratization of energy and tourism production as part of Collective capitalism model : “Small planters with lands in the coastal zone should be supported in setting up eco-lodges on their abandoned fields, and/or develop associated activities to service eco-tourists. Experienced professionals have advised AKNL that Rs 20m gets you 10 ecolodges over 1 arpent with PV panels on their roofs. Just on the other side of the coastal road behind Pomponette, there is a cluster of small planters that could be setting up their own small scale quality tourism-oriented businesses. Stealing a public beach for yet another hotel, and one under a foreign brand on top, will deprive these small planters of a golden opportunity. Less laplaz pou tou dimounn. Aret akapare, demokratize plito.

  1. Greenhouses with PV panels covering half of their roof area is a reality in Reunion Island. One can grow organic veg and fruits, flowers, harvest water and…generate green electricity. Considering the billions that the sugar conglomerates avoided to pay for the MID levy on their coal power plants, it is high time for a coal tax that will support small planters transitioning in clean energy production, with citizens placing their savings in Government-issued Green Energy Bonds that will also fund this energy revolution of our villages. Modernisation of our villages and democratisation of energy production in one same swoop. Make land become attractive again for the children of the small planters.”

Unfortunately, these proposals have not been entertained. A Labour Government would give due consideration to any sound proposal made by like-minded persons. Dr Navin Ramgoolam and Paul Bérenger set the tone at the meeting of Mouvement Ti-Planter. No one can remain insensitive to the plight of small planters.

PLANNING PERIOD OF CEB

Since there is an Organic link between small planters and miller planters, what is the CEB waiting to encourage democratization of energy production from Independent Power Producers ? The CEB wants to serve its own interests and any delay to conclude IPPA may lead to power outages or blackouts. Is this deliberate to justify the implementation of the gas turbine?

Based on the analysis in respect of a second PPA of CEL, the Board paper “observed the aggregated potential savings of approximately Rs 236 million.”

A comparative cost of electricity production shows Alteo at Rs 4.50 kWh is less expensive than Open Cycle Gas turbine which is Rs12.00kWh and Combined Cycle at Rs 8.00kWh. Besides 50% of the biomass of Alteo will come from Cane trash and bagasse. Despite the National Biomass Energy Policy was announced in 2019-2020 budget, there has been no certainty.

An IPP can only generate a finite quantum of electricity and the use of cane trash would displace coal in sizable amount. Mr Mukoon (CEB) should know that a ratio of mixed coal and bagasse at a parity of 1:1 is a noble objective but can only happen if there is bagasse and cane trash. The CO2 emitted by coal is absorbed by the cane plant which is a major carbon sink. No cane would mean only coal and no carbon sink.

It is a pity that in Mauritius we don’t have townhall meetings to discuss findings of expensive reports Commissioned by State-Owned Enterprises. The report submitted in 2014 by SA firm Worley and Parsons on LNG should be the subject of debates at the bar of public opinion. The project is not financially and economically viable according to the findings of the report.

It’s time to set aside our differences and come together as a Nation to address the daunting challenges and opportunities which are knocking in respect of the ongoing discussions of Brexit, and the talk on post Cotonou and the seamless (?) extension of AGOA which would start next year. It cannot be Business as usual.