Mauritius: cool marketing from a tropical island
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CTA. 1992. Mauritius: cool marketing from a tropical island. Spore 40. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45782
AS the visitor to Maurtius drives from the international airport on the south-eastem tip of the island towards the capital Port Louis on the west coast, or past the smart luxury hotels scattered discreetly around the shores, he quickly realizes...
AS the visitor to Maurtius drives from the international airport on the south-eastem tip of the island towards the capital Port Louis on the west coast, or past the smart luxury hotels scattered discreetly around the shores, he quickly realizes that the country has quite a challenge in catering for both its permanent and temporary populations. But the former, traditionally plantation workers on the large sugar cane estates, have responded with entrepreneurial spirit which has transformed the fresh fruit and vegetable production sector of the economy. Since 1984 exports of fruit alone have increased livefold, from 92 tonnes to over 500 tonnes and now passion fruit, avocado, melons, strawberries, litchlis and carambolas are grown as well as citrus and pineapples. Spices, such as ginger, turmeric, all spice and vanilla, all retain their traditional importance. The incentives for Mauritius to produce its own fresh fruit and vegetables are great. Producing fruit of export quality means that high quality fruit and vegetables are available to satisfy the appetite of the tourists who come to the island. This appetite would otherwise have to be satisfied with costly imports. And top quality for tourists also means better quality and choice for the local population. These were the main reasons behind government policy to encourage exports as well, of course, as the need to earn foreign exchange. However, incentive alone is not quite enough. The government quickly recognized that thousands of growers cultivating small scattered parcels of land too steep or too poor for sugar could not, by themselves, establish the organization and infrastructure necessary to achieve consistent, high quality produce. Individual growers, even those producing fruit and vegetables for sale from their own backyards, have organized themselves into produce groups. Megh Pillay, General Manager of the country's Agricultural Marketing Board, explains that by working with these groups the island's production can be carefully planned. Together they decide who will plant what, in what quantities and when. The Board organizes distribution of seed and offers a guaranteed market at a floor price, and this despite the fact that production is seasonal whereas demand remains steady throughout the year. It has been able to do this by building up cold storage facilities so that excess production during the season can be skimmed off, put in coldstores and then put back on the market when that market can no longer be supplied directly by the grower. Produce destined for export rather than the local market is moved from exporters' own coldstore facilities at the packing houses, along good roads in temperature controlled trucks to the air terminal. in order to complete the cold chain and avoid the problems arising from delayed or canceled flights, cold storage facilities have been built at the airport. The store has a capacity of 1680m3, which is far greater than that required for exports at the present time. Imports and goods in transit can therefore be serviced as well, and the earnings set against the cost of exports servicing. This successful, well integrated system has supported many small producers, but has been painful for others. There is no place for those whose produce fails to reach the premium price. And growers have to abide by the rules. On one occasion the export of litchis was banned completely for two weeks, affecting everybody, because of an unfavourable report from a European importer. One grower had tried to catch the market by sending litchis extremely early in me season before they had reached the proper stage of maturity. The situation was only restored to normal after appropriate inspection and control procedures were put in place by the Ministry, of Agriculture. For, as Megh Pillay says, 'the good image of Mauritius as an exporter of high value crops has to be preserved by all means'.