Sustainable food production through public-private partnerships

Stock photo – lettuce field

Agribusiness alumna, Chandranee Devi Moorlah, is a Scientific Officer at the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security in Mauritius. Following her Short Course Award, Ms Moorlah conducted a value-chain analysis of sustainable leafy salad crop production in Mauritius to determine how a value-chain approach can be applied to food services and retail stores, considering the different priorities of retail stores and final consumers.  She investigated the production-driven approach of most government programs alongside the market opportunities created by supermarkets and hotel guests for sustainable salad crops, with the objective of improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and providing recommendations to policymakers.

Focusing on the Riviere du Rempart District, a popular coastal area in the north-east of Mauritius with a population of over 100 000 people, Ms Moorlah conducted two consumer focus groups with local shoppers (57 per cent female) and university students (63 per cent female). She also interviewed tourists (67 per cent female) to determine their needs, as well as staff at a supermarket and a four-star hotel.  These interviews established the strategic importance of offering eco-friendly locally sourced vegetables to these participants in the market. She furthermore held discussions with staff at a medium-sized packing house that cleans, packages and delivers produce to various hotels and supermarkets in Mauritius.

Through her value-chain analysis, Ms Moorlah discovered that a supportive policy and regulatory environment enabled opportunities for collaboration and innovations between the private and public sectors. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are a useful model for developing and sustaining industries, such as agriculture, through stakeholder cooperation and co-funding, the more so since public and private stakeholders can mitigate risks and accelerate opportunities. Mauritius’ commitment to PPPs is supported by the Public-Private Partnership Act 2004. Furthermore, the government has the vision to support a green economy that ensures the production of safe, sustainable food. To this end, farmers have been encouraged and trained to adopt sustainable agricultural practices such as organic farming. In addition, the demand for nutritious food, as a response to health concerns, provides opportunities for supplying innovative and convenient food that matches the population’s modern lifestyles and growing tourism industry.

Ms Moorlah found that supermarkets were best placed to collaborate with upstream value-chain members (packing company, input suppliers and smallholder farmers) by sharing information and pooling resources to quality-assure produce if they were incentivised to do so. The collaboration responded to constraints experienced by smallholder farmers, including securing a market for their produce and guaranteeing their income. As a result, hotels and supermarkets have contracted selected farmers to supply fresh organic food. The farmers are professionally trained and supported, by the buyers, in reaching the required standards through continuous training and guidance.

Ms Moorlah identified government as a critical player in providing policy and a regulatory environment which will contribute to the country’s vision for a green economy. She submitted her recommendations to the ministry, advocating for government to take more of a value-chain approach – therefore supporting all stages and stakeholders of the value chain. “Alongside its support for increasing production, it [the government] could promote consumption of sustainable vegetables for the good of people’s health as well as the environment.” This policy framework would also contribute to Mauritius’ strategy to promote itself as a green tourist destination, she says.

Ms Moorlah has contributed to influencing the government’s policy to create a conducive environment for private sector stakeholders in leafy salad crop production. Small businesses such as hotels, supermarkets and packing houses play a direct role in increasing productivity, generating quality jobs, strengthening skills and advancing technology in agriculture. They rely on a regulatory environment, created by the government, that would maximise and support their role in economic development. She was able to use the skills acquired through the short course to illuminate the importance of innovative partnerships between business and government in improving productivity and driving sustainability in the food sector, in a resource-limited environment.

Ms Chandranee Devi Moorlah

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