GIS – 25 October 2013: The second phase of the Experimental Wheat Cultivation project, spearheaded by the Mauritius Research Council (MRC), is well underway, with the first harvest of the season held at Petit Merlot in Midlands.
To mark the event, a harvest ceremony was organised yesterday in Petit Merlot in the presence of the Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology, Dr Rajeshwar Jeetah, and different stakeholders. In his address, Dr Jeetah stated that Mauritius imports 70% 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 100,000 tons of flour each year. He said that Mauritius’s dependence on food imports coupled with the volatility of food prices have brought forth the necessity to embark on innovative ventures.
Highlighting the opportunities for small entrepreneurs, in particular, women entrepreneurs in enrolling in the wheat cultivation project, Dr Jeetah said that his ministry and the MRC will work together to devise new schemes to encourage the entrepreneurs to join this endeavour. He added that though wheat cultivation in Mauritius is still in the early phase of experimentation, it will not be long before Mauritius will develop the required technology and be exporting its technological know-how to other countries.
The Minister also commended representatives of the Petit Merlot Dairy Farm Cooperative Ltd for their collaboration in the second phase of the experimental wheat cultivation project. The Cooperative has provided some three acres of land. Sowing was done in July 2013 and after a crop cycle of four months, the crop is now ready for harvest. In light of the promising results, the Petit Merlot Dairy Farm Cooperative Ltd has decided to provide some 10 arpents to the MRC in the next phase of the project.
It is to be recalled that the first phase of the experimental wheat cultivation project was initiated in June 2012. It focused on evaluating wheat cultivation under different agro-climatic conditions of Mauritius, determining the highest yielding wheat variety under study and assessing the quality of the wheat product as flour for consumption. The results were promising with an average yield of four tons per hectare of wheat grains obtained from all six varieties under study.
Under Phase II of the project, the three best varieties from Phase I have been sown as from June 2013 on a total area of nine acres of land in Saint Aubin, Saint Antoine and Petit Merlot.
A more in-depth laboratory analysis of the wheat harvested in Phase II will be performed in order to validate the results obtained previously. After harvest, the wheat will be processed into flour and the flour quality evaluated.
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