Recent developments in public agricultural research

Historically, agricultural R&D in Mauritius has been funded through national sources. Sugarcane research is financed through a tax on sugar production, while nonsugarcane research is primarily funded by the national government. In 2008, Mauritius invested 336 million rupees or 23 million PPP dollars in agricultural R&D (in 2005 prices)—an extremely large amount given the country’s size. Agricultural R&D spending as a share of agricultural output, at more than 4 percent in 2008, is by far the highest level of any country in Sub-Saharan Africa. In comparison, average investment levels in most African countries are well below 1 percent of AgGDP.

Despite these high levels of investment, public agricultural R&D expenditures in Mauritius have gradually fallen since reaching a peak in 2002. Capital investments at MOI, which was only established in 2000, were exceptionally high in 2002 but fell thereafter. Spending at MSIRI, the country’s largest agricultural R&D agency, also fell during 2001–08 due to reduced world sugar prices and production levels, which caused a 30 percent contraction in the institute’s principal funding source, a tax on the proceeds of sugarcane production, during this timeframe.

In contrast, human resource capacity in agricultural R&D gradual increased between 2000 and 2008. Rapidly falling scientist numbers at MSIRI were offset by increasing researcher numbers at AREU. This reflects official government policy aiming to diversify the country’s economy away from sugarcane production. Average qualification levels of agricultural scientists have also improved, though the share of PhD-qualified staff is relatively low compared with many other African countries.

Overall, agricultural R&D in Mauritius is very well-staffed and funded. The national government realizes the important role that agricultural R&D plays in the development of the agricultural sector and the economy more generally, and has various well-functioning policies and funding mechanisms in place to support the sector.

Rahija, Michael
Ramkissoon, Jairaj
Stads, Gert-Jan
Published date: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and Food and Agricultural Research Council (FARC)
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