Agricultural Development

sugar_cane.jpg (12964 bytes) From the start, it was clear to Ramgoolam that the sugar industry alone would not be able to sustain the economy. Something had to be done to diversify the economy. Various reports, studies, projects and micro-projects of all descriptions had been made and analysed. Many experiments and theories had been tried.

Finally, it was realised that the sugar industry should be best left in the hands of the private sector but monitored by government through various controlling bodies, including extension services, the Cyclone and Drought Fund, the Mechanical Pool, Irrigation Authority, Sugar Authority.

As sugar made up the life line of the people, it fell to government to ensure a good international marketing so that the country could be assured of a safe revenue . In the past, Mauritius had known many ups and downs due to the fluctuating price of sugar. Accordingly, Ramgoolam framed his economic diplomacy focussing on the sale of sugar. In the colonial days, Mauritius could sell its sugar through the International Sugar Agreement of 1937, resumed in 1948 and in 1953. It provided equitable and stable prices for the sugar-exporting countries in order to counter the threat of world over-production of sugar at low prices. Since 1953, the exports of sugar to U.K were regulated by the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.

But the master stroke of Ramgoolam’s economic diplomacy was engineering Mauritian entry into the European Common Market through the Yaounde and Lome Conventions thanks to the planned Mauritian participation in OCAMM, OAU and in ACP. Henceforth, the sugar planters could sleep peacefully and plan far ahead.
The surplus revenue accruing from sugar was to be invested later into other industries, textile and tourism thus realising the goal of economic diversification fuelled largely by local capital formation.

Besides sugar, tea and tobacco , rice and other experimental crops had been tried on a massive scale and finally these had to be scaled down to the right proportions. But Mauritius which used to import foodstuffs including onion and potatoes had finally become almost self-sufficient in these.

In the past, Mauritius used to import eggs and chicken to feed the population but with the development of poultry on an industrial scale, Mauritius could boast of a thriving poultry industry.

Moreover, the Balog and Bennett report on the Commission of Inquiry on the Sugar Industry, 1962, had recommended the setting up of the Economic Planning Unit, the establishment of a Central Wages Board, the submission of audited accounts by the Chamber of Agriculture to government and the setting up of the Sugar Authority. It also encouraged the opening of technical schools.

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By Anand Mulloo 15.9.98