Jul 15, 2017

Will Biofarming supply healthy and safe products In Mauritius?

Sustainable agriculture is one of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations to be achieved by 2030. In Mauritius, the Ministry of Agro-industry has been working to this end by promoting bio farming and by encouraging planters to use less chemicals and more compost for quality products while reducing our carbon footprint. The strategy is paying off, Minister Mahen Seeruttun claims that 50% of planters have taken up bio farming. By 2030, most farmers would be using this method.


What is the current situation regarding bio food production?

Bio farming takes care of the environment and the biodiversity while ensuring food quality and safety. The concept of bio farming is new to most traditional farmers in Mauritius. The shift to bio production will be a gradual one. Farmers are gradually replacing chemical fertilisers and pesticides by bio fertilizers and bio pesticides. However, there are a few initiatives to pioneer organic food production, which is already under way.

What is the total food production from January 2015 to date?

There are already around 15 existing farmers engaged in bio food production for niche markets. In fact, there is an increasing number of fruit and vegetable growers who have shifted to bio farming practices, using ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ techniques. This ecological approach to farming is promoted by the well-known Indian naturalist Dr Subhas Palekar. As at date, it can be stated that there is a total of 17 Arpents of land under bio farming in Mauritius.
To promote the bio farming practices, my Ministry has put in place the following incentives:
  • Introduction of the Bio Farming Promotion Scheme since May 2016. Eligible farmers benefit from fiscal and financial incentives such as VAT exemption on agricultural equipment and inputs, income tax holiday for the first eight years of operation and loan facilities at an annual interest rate currently at 3.4% over a period of 10 years for a maximum of 90% project financing under the MauBank SME Development Scheme;
  • Implementation of a Compost Subsidy Scheme to encourage planters to shift from the use of chemical inputs to organic ones. As at date, some 3,300 planters have taken advantage of the scheme;
  • Implementation of a Sheltered Farming Scheme to encourage planters to undertake crop production under protected structures, leading to lower dependence on agro chemicals. As at date, some 68 planters have taken advantage of this Scheme.
  • The release of a plot of land on State Land over 66 Arpents at Britannia for the exclusive use of bio farming projects. This plot of land will be equipped with all production infrastructure including land preparation works, irrigation facilities and other infrastructures,
  • Training and technical assistance as support services will be made available to potential promoters of bio farming food production systems.

Is it possible for our food production to be 100% bio?

In Budget 2015, Government has set a target of 50% of local food to be produced according to bio-norms within five years. To promote bio-farming, my Ministry has initiated the following actions:

(a) The setting up of a proper Organisational Structure at both the Ministry and FAREI for provision of technical assistance and for facilitating access of farmers to the Bio Farming Scheme; (b) The development of a training package by FAREI on the MauriGap Level 1 Standard which is the basic standard to facilitate the gradual shift towards bio farming. Currently, FAREI is conducting training of some 240 farmers in the MAURIGAP level 1; (c) The establishment of a demonstration plot over 1 arpent on State Land at Bois Marchand to showcase zero budget natural farming practices. (d) The implementation of a Technical Cooperation Assistance Programme funded by the FAO to support the development of organic farming and institutional capacity building in Mauritius over a period of two years. As per this project, the FAO will assist my Ministry in drafting a national legislation on organic agriculture and develop strategy on the marketing of organic products.
We firmly believe that these initiatives, along with the forthcoming certification process and quality assurance, and all the technical support being provided by my Ministry, will foster the necessary change/shift from conventional farming systems that rely on intensive use of agro-chemicals to bio farming practices that will help to supply on the local market fruits and vegetables that are both healthy and safe.

What is the impact of bio food production on market prices?

The present trend clearly indicates an ever increasing demand for bio food products, most of which are imported. These products are often sold at higher prices than those of conventional ones due to their limited supply on the local market. My Ministry has therefore initiated preliminary groundwork with the assistance of FAO to investigate the pricing of bio food products to consumers. The pricing policy will go in line with the development of a certification process and appropriate labelling for the proper recognition of bio foods. Once the pricing strategy is established, more bio foods will be produced and certified, which will lead to lower prices of bio foods on the market.

Is manure used in the production of vegetables accounted for as bio?

Along with the application of chemical fertilisers, manure is already another source of plant nutrients in conventional farming system. As farmers shift to the bio farming system, manure will become the main source of nutrients for crop development. Under the Zero Budget Natural Farming approach, cow dung is used as source input for natural liquid or solid soil enricher preparation.

What are the other stuffs that can be used under the bio label for food production?

Cow dung along with cow urine from local cow breed can be used for natural soil enricher preparation under the Zero Budget Natural Farming approach. Natural pesticides can be prepared from cow urine and selected plant materials. Natural farming also lay emphasis on mixed cropping and has recourse to natural mulching, which in addition to help in weed control and in reducing the use of herbicides, will also enhance the biological activity and replenish the nutrient base of the soil.

There are also now many imported bio-pesticide products that are available locally and that can be used. Under the Compost Subsidy Scheme, growers are being encouraged to use compost in their production systems. Parasitoids can also be used as biological control to pests in crops production under the support of FAREI.

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