GIS - October 19, 2012: The Compagnie Sucrière de St Antoine embarked on its first wheat harvest with the production of wheat for the first time in the northern region of the island on some 1,000 m2 of land, and the establishment of the crop is deemed successful.
The harvest ceremony was held yesterday at Verger Baudot, Compagnie Sucrière de St Antoine, Poude d’Or, in the presence of the Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology, Dr Rajesh Jeetah, and the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr Lormus Bundhoo. The cultivation of wheat lies in the context of an experimental project undertaken by the Mauritius Research Council in collaboration with the private sector.
In his address on the occasion, the Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology, Dr Rajesh Jeetah, commended all stakeholders for their participation in the experimental project, including the Mauritius Research Council and the Compagnie Sucrière de St Antoine. He stated that the wheat cultivation project is an example of the way researchers, private sector, scientists and managers can join their efforts to implement projects and respond to challenges.
The Minister said that recent figures indicate that Mauritius is currently importing 80% of its food requirements with rice and wheat being the most important staple foods while the local flourmill processes 165, 000 tons of wheat into flour each year. Accordingly, growing concern over the issue of food security, with a rapidly increasing world population, climate change, high prices of chemical fertilizers and natural calamities, has led the ministry to embark on new innovative ventures, he added.
Following the successful experimental plantation of rice in the southeastern part of the island (Cluny) with a yield of over 1000 tons, wheat farming was envisaged as the next step in ensuring food security, said the Minister. Wheat is considered as a multi-purpose plant of high value used as human food, a valuable source of high quality forage and in other products such as wheat germ oil, adhesive, making of rubber and alcohol.
According to the Minister, the next phase of the project, following research on the whole wheat growing process and the findings which allowed for designing a process and programme for up-scaling and development purposes, should be the semi commercial cultivation of the crop with the implementation of more wheat varieties. Dr Jeetah called on growers and other relevant stakeholders to join in the study and assured that the Ministry will provide the necessary support.
The experimental wheat cultivation project focused on evaluating wheat cultivation under different agro-climatic conditions of Mauritius, assessing the highest yielding wheat variety under study and assessing the quality of the wheat product as flour for consumption. Six wheat varieties are being evaluated for their adaptability, yield potential, resistance to pests and diseases and for the quality of the flour.
Three experimental plots were set up in different agro-climatic conditions around the island namely Saint Antoine in the North, Savannah in the South and Montagne Blanche in the centre of the island. All trials were established this year and sowing done from June to September 2012 in the three regions. The project involves a close partnership between both the public and private sector with the participation of F.U.E.L, Compagnie Sucrière de St Antoine and ENL Agro-business among others.