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The Fate of the Sugar Industry on the Island of Mauritius

The Fate of the Sugar Industry on the Island of Mauritius

Getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning is a ritual for Parmanen Seeruthun: he gets his bicycle ready, picks up the lunch packet prepared by his caring wife, gives her a kiss on the cheek and then off he goes in the dark. For over 40 years this has been his daily routine.

This 64 year old resident of Triolet [a village in Northern Mauritius], starts his long and laborious day cycling his bicycle for some kilometres to get to work, while the rest of the village sleeps. Still, Parmanen’s morning routine does not constitute the hardest part of his day, it really begins when he starts work in the sugarcane fields.

Parmanen has been doing this work for so long that, although strenuous and back-breaking, he has developed a method of cleaning and cutting the sugarcane like clockwork. In a day he will cut and clean thousands of sugarcane plants, ready to be taken to the factory.

“I have been doing this work for over 40 years, and God willing I will carry on doing it. Now there are machines, and luckily here they still need people. The younger generation does not want to do this type of work”

The workers now are 60 years old and over, and young people are not interested in working in the sugarcane field; their parents also prefer to invest in a good education for them, and gradually the sugar fields are dwindling. In the past 20 years, the island has lost 30% of the land which was formerly used to grow sugarcane.

Hassen Auleear, who is the third generation of cane planters in his family had to abandon his 7 acres of cane land as he could not get a good return on his investment. “There will not be a fourth generation of planters in the family, the children are educated professionals who will seek work and success somewhere else, because they know this type of work is no longer viable” he says.

For three and half centuries the sugarcane crop has shaped the demography, geography and economy of this country. As change and advancement in technology is sweeping Mauritius, and the old workforce is gradually disappearing, the cane land is being abandoned. The Chamber of Agriculture is doing everything possible to keep costs down and to incentivize the younger generation to invest in the mechanization of the industry. Those who have been in the sugar cane industry for years can see how difficult it is becoming; however, the Ministry of Agriculture are determined to face the future with optimism.

Translated by CC


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