Article written

  • on 01.10.2014
  • at 04:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

A sweet renaissance 0

The development of a range of sugarcane by-products has revitalised the Mauritian sugar industry – a winning strategy.

The narrative of a long-expected death has proven ill-founded. The Mauritian sugar sector was heading towards economic disaster after the European Union (EU) scrapped its Sugar Protocol in 2007 and sugar prices subsequently fell by 37%, with the decisive blow expected to come once the system of sugar quotas is dismantled in 2017. But this scenario has not taken form because Mauritius implemented reforms and strategically repositioned its activities by transforming its sugar industry into a sugarcane processing industry. This industry integrates all economic components necessary for optimal processing of the raw material.

Mauritius first reduced the number of sugar factories from 17 in 1997 to four in 2014 to make the industry more competitive. But these remaining factories can crush more cane and also produce electricity. The country then invested in the production of 400,000 t per year of refined and specialty sugars, which are more profitable than raw sugar, through strategic partnerships, including with the German company SuedZucker AG. These sugars are sold directly to major clients, including European companies, such as Nestlé and Danone, and supermarkets. Gone are the days when the Mauritian sugar industry merely produced brown sugar for Tate & Lyle, the British company that refined and sold it on the European market.

The Mauritian industry also makes effective use of bagasse, a sugarcane residue. This residue was discarded as waste when the industry was focused on the production of brown sugar, prior to the price drop. Bagasse is now used along with coal as fuel for cogeneration applications, generating around 20% of the electricity consumed on the island. Ethanol is also produced from molasses, another sugarcane by-product that was once used as fertiliser. Finally, agricultural rum is another sugarcane-based product that is always appreciated in France, which imports several tens of thousands of bottles yearly.

In Mauritius, people now talk about the sugarcane industry rather than the sugar industry since all parts of the plant are now being used. So the issues that arose following the EU sugar reform have now been turned into opportunities that have saved the industry.

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Photo credit: Ahmad H Alkathiri 

Spore is the flagship magazine of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). From October 2012, the magazine is managed by Afronline’s editor, VITA.

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