Despite being relegated as the biggest industry in Mauritius, the sugar industry continues to harvest 600,000 tonnes each year, the majority of which is exported in its raw state to supply the global food processing industry.
Sugar is still a vital commodity for the island republic and accounts for around 25 per cent of export earnings, 7.7 per cent of GDP and 12 per cent of all jobs.
Introduced by the Dutch in the 16th century, sugarcane is grown on about 93 per cent of the total cultivated land that occupies roughly half of the island's 1,860 sq km.
In total, 532,249 tonnes of raw sugar was exported in 2001, a 49.6 per cent increase over the previous year according to the MPA, while 151,440 tonnes of molasses were exported, a rise of 70.6 per cent from 88,771 tonnes in 2000.
According to figures provided by the Sugar Bureau and generated by FO Licht GmbH, the increase in last year&'s exports can be accounted for a lower than average crop in 1999/00 which produced only 396,000 tonnes of sugar cane.
The UK sources much of its cane sugar from Mauritius under the provisions of the Lome Convention.
This stipulates that EC countries will undertake to import specific quantities of cane sugar, which originate in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States at guaranteed prices for an indefinite period.
The Tate & Lyle refinery at Silvertown imports sugarcane from ACP States in bulk lots of around 15,000-25,000 tonnes. Liaison between the Mauritian suppliers and Tate & Lyle is handled either by its own in-house broking department, Kentships, or through intermediaries such as E D & F Man Sugar.
Julian Price, a broker with E D & F Man Sugar, said that the Mauritian sugar industry also produces high-quality speciality sugars such as golden granules, Demerara, light and dark muscovado, coffee crystals and molasses. "These are usually bagged and exported in containers,' he said.
A surplus of containers in the area, particularly in Reunion, has led to some 'extraordinary rates', reflects Mr Price, with $600 (€665) quoted for a 20 ft box not unusual.