Organic Sugar Production in Mauritius Derailed Due to Weed Problems

Sugarcane is the major crop in Mauritius. Weeds are usually controlled with herbicides. In the early 1990s, three sugar processing firms in Mauritius decided to grow organic sugarcane without the use of herbicides. However, the weed problems led to the curtailment of organic production. At the time of this article’s publication, there was still one organic producer; today, we have discovered there are no organic sugar companies operating in Mauritius.

“Organic sugar production started in Mauritius in 1992 after it was realized that a demand existed in Europe. … As the use of herbicides is not permitted in fields under organic crop production, manual weeding had to be resorted to. In view of the acute labour shortage and the increasing cost of labour, this item was a major contributor to the costs of production and one of the main sources of discouragement for producers who generally do not like to see their fields infested by weeds. Manual weeding is also known to be ineffective.”

“Although alternative methods of weed control exist, they could not be envisaged in the Mauritian context. Using a flame applicator would represent a fire hazard because of the presence of dry trash in the field, and weeding by mechanical means is not convenient because of the rocky nature of the soil. Weed control in the fields under organic cane was therefore not carried out to the same extent as it is in conventionally grown cane. … Owing to these constraints, producers gradually lost interest in organic sugar and only one estate, out of the three originally, is still involved.”

Author: J Deville
Affiliation: Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute, Reduit, Mauritius
Title: Organic sugar production – the Mauritian experience.
Publication: Proceedings of the XXIII International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (ISSCT) Congress. February 22-26, 1999, New Delhi, India.

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