GIS - 12 September, 2019: The first Agricultural Science Exchange Forum on the theme “Challenges and Strategies for Agricultural Resilience”, opened this morning at La Canelle Restaurant, Domaine Les Pailles, in presence of the Minister of Agro Industry and Food Security, Mr Mahen Kumar Seeruttun.
The one-day forum is serving as platform for policy makers, Government technicians, researchers, the civil society and private operators in the agricultural sector to discuss on the prevailing challenges and barriers so as to formulate policies for the development of the sector. Various stakeholders from the academia and the Economic Development Board were also present to bring their contributions.
The deliberations of the forum will set the pace for the drafting of the next strategic plan for the agricultural sector based on the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan and define the way forward to modernise the sector without jeopardizing the environment.
In his address, Minister Seeruttun spoke of the mandate of his Ministry which is much focussed on food security. He recalled that Mauritius is a net food importer of which 75% of its requirement is imported and the food import bill has also increased steadily reaching Rs 34.6 billion in 2017.
Minister Seeruttun reiterated that the trend is expected to continue with increasing population and change in food habits and highlighted that we are responsible for our own food security to ensure that everyone is well fed. However, he pointed out, this becomes difficult when we are faced with circumstances beyond our control, especially during natural disasters or when there is a global recession. Fluctuations in the production, is heavily dependent on the climate as a large share of the production is carried out in open field, he said.
In the wake of these circumstances, he added, Mauritius is among the most exposed countries to food crisis. He stressed that the situation forces the country to review its policy with regard to agriculture and food policy so as to promote local production in a bid to retain foreign exchange instead of paying for high food import bill. At the same time, he emphasised the need to create more value added agricultural products through the development of a dynamic agro-industrial sector.
Minister Seeruttun further observed that addressing the challenge of climate change effectively demands a multi-pronged approach, with actions and interventions at various levels of the agri-food supply chain and that for sustained food security it is also critical that we consider not only production but the consumption side as well. Hence, he reiterated that it is a prerequisite that Mauritian consumers change their food habits so as to reduce staple food import. Consumers should adapt to locally produced food items (cassava, potato, breadfruit, eddoes), while also taking initiatives at household level in terms of kitchen and roof gardening, urban agriculture, and diminishing food wastage, he stated.
The Agricultural Science Exchange Forum will be an annual event bringing together researchers, farmers, businesses and other stakeholders to share knowledge and develop a synergistic approach for agricultural development.
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