The World Bank (WB) Report on the Sugar Cane Sector Review was released on February 5, 2022 in the presence of the Attorney General, Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security, Mr Maneesh Gobin, during a workshop held at the Caudan Arts Centre, in Port Louis. The Acting Country Representative of the World Bank Group, Mrs Brinda Devi Dabysing, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mauritius Cane Industry Authority (MCIA), Mr Satish Purmessur, and other personalities were present.
The half-day workshop brought together stakeholders of the sugar cane sector to discuss the Report which provides the main recommendations for public policy and programs for the future development of the sugar cane sector. In his address, Minister Gobin highlighted that Government decided in 2019 to commission the services of the WB Team to undertake a study on our sugar sector with a view to provide clarity and help in finding solutions to ensure the long-term viability of our cane industry.
He recalled that in January 2020, the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security signed an Advisory Services Agreement on behalf of the Government with the WB. The objective of the Advisory Services, the Minister underlined, was to provide policy recommendations to the Government of Mauritius regarding the development of the sugar cane sector and included three main deliverables, namely: Competitiveness assessment of the sugar cane sector; Vision exercise with sector stakeholders; and Proposed policy actions and implementation plan.
Minister Gobin further indicated that recommendations put forward in the Report will be implemented in taking into consideration available options following consultations with concerned stakeholders. He stressed that a number of policy options which the WB had proposed to Government were considered in Budget 2021/22. A small committee is still working and examining the recommendations made by the WB in the context of the study on the viability of the sugar cane sector and with a view to formulate additional measures, which will be implemented in the forthcoming Budget 2022/23, the Minister pointed out.
For her part, Mrs Dabysing indicated that there have been a large number of reports, strategies and proposals for the development of the sugar cane sector in the recent years, where many proposed changes did not happen and did not yield the intended results in the past. Taking this into consideration, she underlined that rather than adding one more report to the list of sector diagnostics, the WB Team set out to develop a series of tools and assessments that would allow the sector to come up with its own conclusions on what needs to be done. With this Report, she highlighted, the WB has provided policy options and recommendations to the Government with the hope that this outside view of the challenges and opportunities can help all stakeholders to design and implement the needed reforms.
Furthermore, she underscored that the goal of the WB Team through the various tools, trainings and workshops has been to build the capacity of Mauritius’s public institutions and sector stakeholders to assess the options for improving the viability of the sugar cane sector and make informed public policy decisions for the future of the sector. Mrs Dabysing appealed to stakeholders to reach out to the WB team whenever the need is felt as they are here to support and strengthen the ability to make informed decisions as well as support the development of the agriculture and energy sector of the country. Sugar cane, she pointed out, can be a transformative change agent socially, environmentally and economically, thus it is important to consider the options available for the development of this sector.
As for the CEO of the MCIA, he underlined that the MCIA has acted as facilitator between the WB and the stakeholders of the cane industry so as to provide full support to the WB in materializing their project on time. He added that a total of 15 visio-conferences/workshops were organized where all stakeholders had the opportunity to interact directly with the experts from the WB Team and share their views on the way forward from their perspective to ensure the sustainability of the industry.
Furthermore, Mr Purmessur indicated that four no-regret policy reforms, which the WB recommended to Government were analysed, notably: increase of the price of electricity produced from bagasse; supporting the movement towards high-tech sugar cane farming; reducing the sugar export logistics costs; and increasing the share of specialty sugars sold. He also outlined a number of policy options that the WB had proposed to the Government that were considered in Budget 2021/22. These include: The remuneration of Bagasse at the rate of Rs 3.50 per Kwh, that is Rs 3,300/ton of sugar on bagasse component so that all planters and producers benefit from a remuneration of Rs 3,300 per ton of sugar on the bagasse component instead of average proceeds of Rs 150 per ton of sugar before; and funds earmarked by the Government for the construction of a modern state-of-the-art sugar storage facility in the region of Jin Fei, Riche Terre, in order to address the problem of storage of sugar and lower the cost incurred.
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