GIEWS Country Brief: Mauritius 16-October-2020

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  1. Production of food crops estimated at reduced level in first semester of 2020

  2. Prices of food increased steeply in early 2020, following overall stable trend in 2019

  3. COVID‑19 pandemic causes income losses and raises concerns regarding access to food

Production of food crops in first semester of 2020 estimated at reduced level

About 40 percent of the country's land is used for crop cultivation, of which about 90 percent is sugarcane, a major export earner, with the remaining land planted with tea, tobacco and a small number of food crops.

According to Statistics Mauritius, production of food crops, mainly vegetables and fruits that, on average account for about 40 percent of the annual food crop output, is estimated at 31 000 tonnes in the first semester of 2020, 18 percent less than the output of the same period in 2019. The reduced level reflects a contraction in the planted area, which has been steadily declining since 2015, and low yields due to unfavourable weather conditions.

Production of sugarcane was estimated at 37 000 tonnes in the first semester of 2020, over 60 percent lower on a yearly basis reflecting a reduced planted area. The sown area to sugarcane has steadily decreased since 2016, driven by low export demand for Mauritian sugar. Based on current figures, production of sugar is forecast at about 290 000 tonnes in 2020, 20 percent below the five‑year average.

Most of the cereal products consumed in the country are imported and only a small amount of cereals is produced domestically. For the 2020 marketing year (January‑December), import requirements of cereals are estimated at 350 000 tonnes, about 7 percent above the five‑year average, mainly due to increased demand for wheat.

Prices of food increased steeply at start of 2020, but eased in subsequent months

Following an overall stable trend in 2019, mainly reflecting trends in international food prices, the monthly food inflation rate increased sharply between January and April 2020, driven by a depreciation of the national currency, which lost about 10 percent of its value against the United States dollar over that period. In addition, a sharp uptick in prices of locally produced vegetables and fruits contributed to the high inflation rates. The rising trend eased from May onwards and, as of September, food prices were only about 5 percent higher on a yearly basis.

COVID‑19 pandemic causes income losses and raises concerns regarding access to food

Projections by the International Monetary Fund indicate that the national economy, highly dependent on tourism and service sectors, could contract by as much as 12 percent in 2020, driven by the effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic. The economic downturn is expected to result in widespread income losses, worsening households' capacity to purchase foods.

To help stabilize households' incomes, the Government has disbursed, from March to September 2020, MUR 25 million (about USD 624 million) through two employment assistance programmes, the "Wage Assistance Scheme" and the "Self Employed Assistance Scheme". These programmes ensure employees from private companies and self‑employed workers continue to receive a monthly income. In July, the Government announced that both schemes would continue to assist employees and workers in the tourism sector until the country opens its borders.