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Socio-economic Changes

Population growth and its effects on forest lands

The population of Mauritius is 1.2 million. During the past decade the population has increased at an average rate of 1.2% per annum. It is estimated that the population by 2020 will be between 1.3 mil to 1.5mil (Annex III). This increase in population will have a severe impact on the demand for additional lands for housing development.

As an island, Mauritius has limited land resources. Due to the prohibitive cost of real estates, people in the low income group cannot buy land for residential purposes. This situation will worsen in the next two decades and more forest lands will be sacrificed to accommodate housing development in the following ways:

Squatting by landless people on state forest lands in the proximity of densely populated urban areas. The areas around the capital will be further encroached upon leading to the creation of shanty-towns. Some of the state-owned coastal belts along the South-western coast will also be affected.

Government will embark on low-cost housing schemes on state forest lands found in the sub-urban areas.

Forest lands under private ownership will be parcelled out for residential purposes for the high income groups.

Individual households will make the maximum use of their limited land for extension of houses or creation of new ones. This will lead to a loss of trees outside the forest. Trees in the urban landscape will be gradually replaced by smaller flowering and decorative shrubs.

It is expected that about 8,000 ha of forest lands will be lost in the next two decades.


Population Growth leading to higher demands for forest products

Mauritius will always be a net importer of timber as there are very limited lands for timber production. The increase in population will lead to increased demand for utility, structural and furniture timber. The demand for reconstituted wood e.g. plywood, veneers particle boards etc will also increase. Most of our timber and other forest products requirements will be met through imports.


Local production of Timber

At present, we produce only 30% of the demand for utility timber and about 5% of our hardwoods requirements. In the next two decades timber production will be further reduced and the emphasis will be more on conservation.

The use of fuel wood for cooking is very limited. The removal of import duty on cooking gas has made it accessible to virtually every household in Mauritius. This has had a very beneficial impact on forests.

Previously due to the high cost of gas there was a very heavy pressure on those forests standing in the proximity of inhabited areas.

Annex IV, V, and VI give the trend and projected demand for timber and other major forest products for the next decades.


Changes in Global Economy

Any small economy with a domestic market insufficiently large to support economies of large-scale production inevitably depends on imports from other countries to supply a large part of domestic consumption on exports to other countries to provide markets for much of its output, and inflows from abroad of finance and technical expertise for much of the investment needed to generate economic growth. Hence it is vulnerable to any adverse changes in other economies – changes over which it cannot expect to exercise any control. There are a number of international economic developments which bring both potential advantages and also potential difficulties for Mauritius.

Over a number of years the globalisation process has been gathering pace. A succession of international agreements, most recently the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Uruguay Round and the establishment of the World Trade organisation (WTO) have brought a lowering of barriers to trade, for both goods and services. This has increased trade and intensified international competition – enhancing the opportunities for the most competitive producers, but also bringing major problems for less competitive producers.

In addition to the general trend towards trade and financial liberalisation, there are two specific changes which will have a direct and important impact on Mauritius. The sugar industry of Mauritius has long benefited from preferential access to the EU market, being allocated more than one third of the total quota for associated countries. However, EU prices, which used to be subjected to periodic adjustment, have not been raised for many years, reducing the differential compared with other markets. Mauritian sugar exports will depend on the future EU-Sugar regime.

Exports of textiles and clothing from Mauritius have hitherto enjoyed duty-free access to the EU market; but the phasing out of the Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA) will open this market increasingly to competition from very large-volume, low-cost producers in other countries.

In parallel with the process of globalisation, there has also been a growth of common markets and free trade zones in many parts of the world. It is possible that the globalisation process will break down and be superseded by trade wars between rival economic blocs. This might not unduly damage countries inside the strongest economic blocs but could bring greater dangers for countries outside such blocs.

Thus, in the coming decades Mauritius will face major new challenges and it will increasingly have to face them alone. In the past, Mauritius has been the recipient of substantial amounts of international development aid. The money has been well spent and produced good results, making the country a showcase for what can be achieved. Its very success in the past means that Mauritius is now no longer one of the countries poor enough to claim priority for international assistance. Indeed, if rapid growth continues, the time will eventually come when Mauritius becomes prosperous enough to join the ranks of the donor countries, helping in its turn other countries to achieve faster development. Accordingly, in the future, Mauritius will face a steady decline in official aid and will need to make further progress by its own efforts, paying for any inputs from abroad on normal commercial terms.


Changes in the major economic sectors


It is envisaged that the area under sugar would continue to decline, and profitability would likely to come under pressure from stagnant, or even falling prices and increasing competition in the EU, but that output and profitability would be maintained as a result of improvements in productivity.

While there is a continuing loss of sugarcane fields of some 500 hectares a year as a result of residential and industrial development, the effect of this will be partially offset by a gradual increase of 5,000 hectares in the area under irrigation and a further 1,000 hectares brought under cultivation as a result of de-rocking. There is also increasing productivity due to the grouping of small planters, increasing mechanisation, more efficient irrigation systems, the introduction of higher yielding varieties and the adoption of lower cost methods in field, factory and marketing operations.

Thus, sugar is still going to account for the great majority of land under cultivation and will still be an important sector in the economy and a major source of export earnings. However, it will still account for a declining proportion of total GDP, as other sectors expand, and a rather more sharply declining share of total employment, as labour productivity rises and labour is drawn away to other sectors. There should be scope for reducing the cost of imported food by increasing Mauritian production of fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products, and of processed food and drinks, which should benefit from the TDS. There may also be greater scope for exports of flowers, spices, palm kernel and other products, provided international standards can be met.

The hitherto slow development of fisheries should be speeded up by the implementation of the Ten Year Fisheries Development plan which will modernise the fleet, increase processing capacity and raise standards to meet the increasingly rigorous norms required in export markets. At the same time, better training for fishermen and the use of Fish Aggregating Devices should encourage outer-reef fishing and increase yields and incomes





The rapid build-up of the manufacturing industry in Mauritius has been mainly in the EPZ and based predominantly on export of clothing and textiles to Europe, where Mauritius has enjoyed free access under the Lomé Convention. Moreover, with the Multi fibre Agreement (MFA) due to be phased out by 2005, Mauritius will face sharply increased competition from low-cost, large-volume producers. It will accordingly be important to move up-market to higher value-added lines where competition is based more on timely delivery and quality than on price. Some of the larger firms have adopted advanced modern methods and established a reputation for consistent quality and reliable delivery. However, some of the smaller firms are much less advanced and Government and the Export Processing Zones Development Authority will help them adopt best practices by improving training opportunities, establishing industrial parks and encouraging the use of information technology in design, production, marketing and communication.

It will also be important to try to diversify the range of products and enter into additional markets. The various measures intended to encourage inward investment will improve the chances of new industries being established. The country’s membership of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), Indian Ocean Rim – Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), by giving favoured access to newly growing regional markets, will reduce the dependence on Europe as a destination for exports.



Mauritius has considerable natural advantages as a holiday destination – beautiful coral beaches, warm clear lagoons, colourful reefs, picturesque mountains, a subtropical climate, a southern hemisphere location, an atmosphere that is exotically different, yet safe and stable, and people who are friendly and welcoming. These advantages have been exploited with attractive well run hotels with good amenities, direct and reliable air services, efficient supporting infrastructure and effective marketing as an up-market quality destination. It is therefore hardly surprising that tourist arrivals have been rising by more than 8 percent a year and the tourism industry has become one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy, accounting for 19 per cent of gross export earnings and providing employment directly and indirectly for about 50,000 people (Annex VII).

However, there are problems. Average spending per visitor has not been going up as fast as hoped, and there have been some signs of adverse reactions at tourist numbers and behaviour. Infrastructure constraints have developed in the form of congestion at peak times at the airport and inadequate effluent treatment leading to deterioration in water quality in some of the lagoons. In the longer term, there will be more general environmental constraints, in the form of limits to the capacity for absorbing ever increasing numbers of visitors in a small densely populated country with a finite length of beaches and a sensitive coastal ecology. It will be necessary in the future to place a ceiling on the number of tourists in order to protect the environment and, indeed, the future of the tourism industry itself.

Accordingly, the proposed National Tourism Development Plan for Mauritius and Rodrigues will put prudent emphasis on sustainability. There will be a need to increase the average spending per tourist by going still further up-market with a still higher quality of service and range of facilities, and with the development of inland attractions, eco-tourism and local production of goods for sale to tourists. The development of Mauritius as a regional centre should give scope for the growth of business tourism and the holding of conferences, exhibitions and other special events.

It will be necessary to improve the infrastructure on which tourism depends as well as environmental management so as to guarantee the quality of the environment on which the tourism industry and the country as a whole depends.


Impacts of trade liberalisation on the Forest Industries

The wood based industries in Mauritius are restricted to primary and secondary processing. The main activities in primary processing are sawmilling and wood chips production, while those in secondary processing are furniture, joinery and the ship models manufacturing industries. Sawmilling activities depend almost entirely on locally produced softwoods (about 10,000 m3) and limited breakdown of imported hardwood squares e.g. Teak (Tectona grandis) from S. E. Asia and sapele (Entandrophragma cylindrium) and Iroko (Chlorophora excelsa) from Eastern Africa. Trade liberalisation will lead to a gradual elimination of tariffs. The impact will be very limited on the price of imported timber as there is virtually no duty on imported timber. However, reduction in tariff on reconstituted wood and woodworking machines, equipments and tools will be very beneficial to low cost furniture manufacturing sector. This reduction in tariff will also make the wooden furniture industry more competitive as it is facing increasing competition from the imported furniture sector (Annex VIII gives the trend in imports of wooden furniture).


Changes in the Agricultural Sector that may affect the forestry sector.

Reduction of Sugarcane lands

During the past 2 decades there has been tremendous pressure on marginal lands for sugar cane plantations. Private Forest lands were sacrificed for growing cane and steep slopes have been stripped of their forest cover. State forest lands also came under heavy pressure from the sugar lobby. However, in the next two decades it is expected that this pressure will ease up as the present level of production of sugar will be met from a smaller area through derocking of cane fields, improved varieties of canes of high yield and irrigation.

Improved Irrigation/Dams construction

Another development in the Agricultural Sector that will directly result in the loss of forest land in the future is the creation of dams for the irrigation of the sugar plantation in the water-deficient Northern plains. To increase production in this area, the sugar sector is resorting to derocking and improved irrigation. Preliminary works have already started for the construction of the biggest dam in Mauritius. This will result in the loss of more than 800 ha of Forests.

Reduction in Cattle /goat/sheep production

Mauritius imports most of its requirement in red meat. The local production of red meat is about 400 tons. With the increasing population and ever-increasing no. of tourists visiting Mauritius, the demand for red meat will soar.

As a result of very limited areas for pastures and high cost of supplementary feeds, cattle production as well as goat and sheep production is on the decline. Deer ranching remains the only viable red meat production. Products from leased state forests lands will only increase marginally as pasture areas are restricted to only 5% of leased areas. The increase in production will be from privately owned forests. Deer ranching will be gradually intensified towards Deer farming, leading to loss of forest lands for supporting pasture development.


Labour movement

In the next two decades, we will have a further shift of labour from the Agricultural and forest sector towards the Industrial and Services Sectors. Traditional forest operations like land preparation prior to reforestation, weeding, and some nursery works like watering will have to be mechanised. The Industrial sector will not be able to absorb the increase in the active population. The Manufacturing sector will resort to high technology and automation to be able to stay competitive. The increase in the active population will have to be absorbed by the services sector.


New Developments in the Tourism and Services Sector.

The expansion of the tourism sector will have direct consequences on Eco-tourism. The main attractions to tourists visiting Mauritius are our beautiful beaches and lagoons. But during their average ten day stay in Mauritius, tourists invariably seek some other form of recreation away from the beach. Eco-tourism and other nature based tourism offer this alternative through organised tours to the native forest. Our native forests, with its rare indige nous and endemic flora and fauna, offer a completely different natural surrounding and they have privileged sites, which offer panoramic sceneries of the lowlands, coastal areas and outlying lagoons.

This sector is expected to grow considerably in the next decades. It is projected that by 2020 about 1.2m tourists will visit Mauritius annually. The demand for eco-tourism and other nature-based activities will be ever increasing.

There will be considerable investment in the sector in terms of lodging, catering and ancillary infrastructure. Eco-tourism will be beneficial to forests and the National economy in the following ways:

Native forests will be protected and better managed leading indirectly to the conservation of our Biodiversity

Revenue from the sector will be ploughed back for the improvement of road infrastructure

This new niche will create new direct and indirect employment

Government imposed levy on Ecotourism activities may be used to finance conservation projects on state lands.

Increased demand for handicrafts may lead to the creation of plantation of vegetal fibres e.g. raffia, bamboo, pandanus.

Tourism development may affect the sector indirectly in the loss of coastal forests though construction of hotel infrastructure. Recreational activities requiring large areas of land e.g. golf courses, race courses, leisure parks etc. may as well lead to the loss of forest lands.


Increasing awareness for CBD and environment protection and greater aspiration for quality of goods and services

One major factor, which will positively affect the sector, is the increasing demand for quality goods and services from the general public. The Forestry Service which is the custodian of all state owned forest resources will become increasingly under the scrutiny of pressure groups. They will ensure that Forests Resources are sustainably managed for benefits of present and future generations.


Changes in Energy Consumption and impact on Forests

During the last fifteen years, the use of firewood as a domestic fuel has been reduced drastically, following the elimination of import duty on cooking gas. Almost all households use cooking gas. The effect has been extremely beneficial on forests that are situated in the proximity of inhabited areas. Firewood is now mostly used for cremation in Hindu funerals and in limekilns. It must be pointed out that small branches obtained as a result of logging which was traditionally used as firewood is now readily absorbed by the wood-chips industry. In fact the demand cannot be met. (Annex IX and X ).

By the year 2020, unless there are increases in the prices of fossil fuel, very little firewood will be used in Mauritius. Limekilns will be phased out and cremation of bodies will be performed by electric or gas incinerators.

Firewood may be used to fire furnaces to produce electricity. Bagasse is burnt by sugar factories to produce electricity. During the milling period electricity so produced is sold to the Central Electricity Board.

A private Company has already submitted a project that aims at using the wood of the invasive guava tree "Psidium cattleianum" from the National Park together with bagasse to produce electricity. The removal of the invasive guava trees will help in the conservation of the native forests. The use of wood as fuel will reduce the dependence on coal which produces a lot of CO2. The "Carbon Storage trust" based in London has already submitted proposals for funding:

the removal of guava wood for use in furnaces

the creation of forest plantations of timber species with high calorific value

Annex XI gives the total energy requirement and forecast


Policy and Institutional Changes

National Forest Policy

The Forest Policy of Mauritius was formulated in the sixties and re-enunciated in 1983. Since then there are new challenges which have emerged and these are not properly addressed in the policy. The National Forest Policy is being revised and the following crucial issues will be addressed.






Long term

Security of tenure

The threats of encroachment on State Forest Lands and their conversion to other land uses are ever present. Forest lands in strategic locations (e.g. catchment areas) will be made unalienable. Strategically located privately owned forests will be compulsorily acquired

Protection and sustainable Management of Private forests

In view of the long term investment in forestry private forests are being cleared and converted to other land uses. There is no investment in forest plantations as timber production is not economically viable. Incentives will be given to the private Sector to create new forest resources and to sustainably manage existing ones. Such incentives will be in the form of:

Tax rebates/grants/subsidies

Free seedlings

Technical guidance

A scheme of free issue of seedlings and technical guidance to the private sector is already operational



The Forestry Service and the National Parks are the two major governmental organisations which are responsible for the management of Forest resources. The Forestry Service is responsible for all forest plantations and a considerable area of native forests while the National parks and Conservation Service is responsible for the National Park (7,000 ha) and the islets around Mauritius. These two organisations have a total of 1,200 employees (there were some 1,800 in 1990). The policy of the government is to downsize public department and contract out labour intensive activities (Annex XII).


Expected Changes

In the years to come, the personnel will be drastically reduced.

Traditional manually executed activities will be mechanised e.g. bulldozers will be used for land preparation prior to replanting

Use of motorised equipments e.g. motorised herbicide sprayers, motorised bush cutters etc.

Manual irrigation in nurseries will be replaced by pump operated sprinklers etc.

Personnel will have to be trained in the use of motorised equipments

Reduced personnel may change management strategies e.g. prolonged rotation to reduce areas to be cut annually, hence reducing the annual reafforestation activities.


New Developments in infrastructure and Communication

Buildings and road

There is a good network of metallic roads to service the forest plantations on state owned forests. Most of the old wooden forest offices have been pulled down and replaced by concrete buildings. All forest sub-offices have electricity and are equipped with telephones.




The present fleet of vehicles is comprised of 15 lorries and 10 double cabs 4x4. Most of the vehicles are more than ten years old. Maintenance cost is rising every year. Government is envisaging to contract out some of the transport activities.

New infrastructural development is expected in the privately owned forests to promote eco-tourism and other forms of leisure. These will consist of new roads, 4x4 vehicles eco-lodges, hunting lodges, restaurants, nature trails, communication equipments etc. These developments will inevitably lead to some amount of deforestation but overall the sector will benefit from them.


Trend in Investment in the Forestry Sector

There are three major sources of funding in the Forest Sector, namely:

The Government

The Private Sector

N.G.O’s through donor funding


Government funding for the next two decades will be mostly in the form of recurrent expenditure to support the activities of the Forestry Service and the National Parks and Conservation Service – two major public organisations responsible for commercial forestry and conservation. The main activities of these organisations are the protection and creation of new forest resources and the in-situ and ex-situ conservation of rare indigenous flora and fauna. Government will also invest in vehicles, machines equipments and tools as there will be a gradual shift towards mechanisation because of a shortage of labour in the service.

Private Sector Investment

Private sector investment will be in the following sub-sectors

Forest Industries

In view of the projected prohibitive cost of imported timber, more and more locally produced utility timber will be seasoned and treated. This will require investment in seasoning and treatment plants. At present there is a lot of wastage after saw-milling. The recuperation percentage of saw-milling activities is about 50% and 40% of the round timber comes as off-cut which is wasted. These can be processed into wood chips and used as litter and compost. Following logging operations, a fair amount of branch wood is left in the forest. The poultry industry has shown an interest in this produce and is investing in machines to convert it into litter for layers.

Furniture industries will invest in high tech wood-working machines to produce high quality furniture.

The private sector is also expected to invest in Deer ranching activities to increase venison production on privately owned lands. These will be in the form of metallic fencing, 4x4 vehicles, supplementary feeds for deer, hunting lodges, watchmen quarters.

Non Governmental Organisations - In Mauritius, there are a few Non Governmental Organisations involved in conservation activities on leased state forest lands. They benefit from both local and foreign donor funding. The NGOs will invest in some infrastructures that may contribute to generate revenue to support their conservation activities.


Other factors that may affect the sector

Availability of Imported timber at very competitive prices

Mauritius produces only 30% of its requirement of utility timber. Madagascar has vast areas of pine plantations but its major markets are in France. The long distance from the market makes the freight costs very prohibitive and the price of timber artificially low to allow them to compete with countries closer to their market. Timber importers from Mauritius have capitalised on this situation. Utility timber (mostly Pinus kesiya..) is imported from Madagascar at a price which defies all competition from the locally produced pine (P. elliottii). Such a situation will eventually drive all wood-merchants dealing in locally produced timber out of the market. While this may appear as an opportunity for timber importers, it presents a threat to the livelihood of 1,000 persons involved in logging and transport and sawmilling of locally produced pine.



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