The Minister of Industrial Development, SMEs and Cooperatives, Mr Soomilduth Bholah, effected a site visit in Calodyne, Grand Gaube, to oversee the hydroponic project set up by the Mauritius Fairtrade Cooperative Federation Ltd (MFCFL). The chairperson of the MFCFL, Mr Shrudanand Sheoraj, and other personalities were also present during the site visits.
In a press statement following the site visits, Minister Bholah highlighted that the MFCFL acquired 636 m2 of land in Calodyne in 2019 for the setting up of a hydroponic project for the cultivation of tomatoes, while the greenhouse and all amenities were constructed this year. He observed that the income from this project is estimated at around Rs 240,000 per harvest. The MFCFL has thus decided that 60% of the profit will be distributed to producers, while the other 40% will be used for capacity building projects related to Fairtrade.
Speaking about the Fairtrade Certification, he underscored that it encourages sustainable production without compromising on quality, and is in line with the Millennium Development Goals. He underlined that the certification system is managed by Flo-cert, and that social and environmental criteria must be met so as to obtain the Fairtrade Premium. This Premium, he pointed out, amounts to some Rs 500 million from 2009 to date.
The Minister however deplored that although the Fairtrade Certification offers a better system for the benefit of producers and employees, there is a decrease in the number of local cooperatives which are Fairtrade certified, from 23 in 2009 to 21 as at date. This, he added, results from non-compliance with labour laws; non-conformities with standards; no audit for the evaluation of standards; as well as no member participation.
Moreover, Minister Bholah also dwelt on projects implemented by Fairtrade certified cooperatives locally, which range from the purchase of equipment for mechanisation; construction of offices; land purchase; and capacity building programmes, among others. He further commended planters for their contribution regarding the socio-economic development of the country, and reassured that Government will continue to put incentives at their disposal so that the cane industry remains a pillar of the economy.
Some of these incentives, he recalled, include: the introduction of a Biomass Framework that will allow cane growers to benefit from Rs 3.50 per kWh of electricity produced; a guaranteed price of Rs 25,000 per ton for growers producing up to 60 tons of sugar for the 2021 harvest; and the acquisition of a harvester by the Mauritius Cooperative Agricultural Federation Ltd.
For his part, Mr Sheoraj recalled that the MFCFL, which regroups some 26 cooperative societies, was created in 2011 and aims at promoting Fairtrade among cooperatives around the country. He also commended all the stakeholders involved in the implementation of the hydroponic project at Calodyne.