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DEBATS BUDGETAIRES 2017-18 : MAHEN SEERUTTUN DONNE UNECINGLANTE REPLIQUE A L’OPPOSITION

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06Jul

DEBATS BUDGETAIRES 2017-18 : MAHEN SEERUTTUN DONNE UNECINGLANTE REPLIQUE A L’OPPOSITION

Mahen Seeruttun, ministre de l’Agro-industrie et de la Sécurité alimentaire, lors des débats sur le Budget 2017-18 le mardi 13 juin, a donné une cinglante réplique à toute l’opposition à commencer par Xavier Luc Duval leader de l’Opposition et celui du PMSD et Ezra Jhuboo, député du Parti Travailliste.

« On a hérité d’une situation catastrophique après presque 10 ans du règne du Parti Travailliste/PMSD. Nous savons tous comment le pays était anéanti, et qu’il fallait redémarrer la machinerie économique. Aujourd’hui, ces mêmes personnes qui étaient à la tête du pays viennent nous demander de réaliser dans si peu de temps, autant de résultats », a-t-il rappelé. Déjà, qu’en deux ans seulement, indique-t-il, le taux de chômage est passé de 8% pour descendre à 7.3%. « J’en suis sûr que cela continuera à baisser à l’avenir », ajoute-t-il.

Ci-dessous le discours du ministre dans son intégralité :
« M. le Président, permettez-moi d’abord d’étendre mes félicitations, celles de mes mandants et aussi de la population, au Premier ministre et ministre des Finances pour la présentation du Budget 2017-18. C’est en effet son cinquième budget, M. le président.

Et je me souviens en 2003, à l’issue de sa première présentation, on avait parlé de ‘coup d’essai, coup de maître’. Cette fois, j’aurai espéré que les membres parlementaires de l’autre côté de la Chambre se montrent plus juste et reconnaissent aussi que ce budget est un budget innovant et sans précédent. Mais quoi entendre des membres de l’Opposition ?

A vrai dire, M. le président, c’est un budget fait par un homme de terrain. Un budget de peuple pour lepep. La voix de la nation a été entendue et ça c’est le signe d’un gouvernement à l’écoute de sa population.

Nous avons, M. le président, un chef de file, un meneur d’hommes et de femmes, qui a une vision, il réfléchit à ce qu’il veut accomplir et il est animé par ses convictions et aussi un ensemble de principes auxquels il reste et restera fidèle. Il transmet son message avec passion et intégrité. Il inspire donc le respect de tous, même de ses détracteurs les plus virulents.

Mais avant d’entrer dans le fond du sujet, M. le président, je voudrai d’abord répondre à quelques points émis par l’honorable Ezra Jhuboo. Il a fait référence à l’entrevue de l’économiste Pierre Dinan, mais ce qu’il n’a pas dit, ce que l’économiste a dit dans l’intégralité. Il a pris une partie de son entrevue et il a fait mention de que cette partie-là. M. le président, ça fait 2 ans et 6 mois que ce gouvernement est au pouvoir. On a hérité d’une situation catastrophique après presque 10 ans du règne du Parti Travailliste/PMSD. Nous savons tous comment le pays était anéanti, et qu’il fallait redémarrer la machinerie économique. Aujourd’hui, ces mêmes personnes qui étaient à la tête du pays viennent nous demander de réaliser dans si peu de temps, autant de résultats. L’honorable Jhuboo – comme dit mon collègue, l’honorable Sinatambou – se joint à ses camarades pour dire que le syndrome ‘narien pas bon’ est toujours là. Depuis le début de 2015, ce gouvernement met tout pour pouvoir redonner la machinerie économique la force qu’il faut pour améliorer le sort de toute la population.

Aujourd’hui, les indicateurs sont là. C’est malheureux qu’il ne va pas reconnaitre que les indicateurs sont là et ça démontre que les choses sont en train d’aller dans la bonne direction. Et l’honorable Jhuboo et le Leader de l’Opposition hier, ne veulent pas accepter que le chômage est à la baisse. Ils viennent avec toutes sortes d’explications pour dire que c’est une baisse oui, mais il y a un vieillissement de la population qui explique ceci. Les faits sont là, M. le président. On est sorti de 8% pour descendre à 7.3%. Et la tendance à la baisse, je suis sûr, va continuer cette année-ci et l’année prochaine et après encore. De par les mesures qu’on vient d’annoncer dans ce budget, et d’ailleurs c’est bien clair, on veut, à travers les mesures annoncées, offrir à nos jeunes de meilleurs jobs, de meilleures opportunités.

Lorsqu’on voit la somme allouée dans la recherche et le développement de ce qu’on veut faire du MRC, tout ça démontre l’importance qu’on donne pour pouvoir donner plus de chance à nos jeunes de ce pays. Ce qu’on fait aujourd’hui pour les PME, c’est sans précédent. Et on connait tous et je suis sûr qu’ils vont être d’accord avec nous; ce sont les petites et moyennes entreprises qui sont les gros pourvoyeurs d’emplois.

Et aujourd’hui, ce qu’on donne, ce qu’on les offre comme facilités, c’est justement pour pouvoir les faire grandir et offrir encore plus d’emplois à ceux qui sont à la recherche d’un emploi. Mais ils n’ont pas vu tout ça. La loi qu’on vient de présenter, le Business Facilitation, et avec des mesures qui vont venir dans ce budget pour renforcir encore cet environnement pour le business, ils n’ont rien vu encore. Soit ils ne veulent pas voir, ou c’est que de la démagogie, M. le président.

On a introduit récemment un scheme, Speed to Market, pour faire face à la situation en Grande-Bretagne. Et je dois dire qu’en un mois seulement, l’exportation a augmenté par 2% et ça démontre que c’est un scheme qui marche. Et je peux dire encore une fois dans les mesures annoncées, ce scheme va être étendu à d’autres secteurs, dont le secteur agricole.

L’honorable Jhuboo a aussi parlé du secteur de l’agro-industrie, il parlait justement du nombre d’arpents qui sont laissés à l’abandon. La question qu’il faut se poser, pourquoi, qu’est-ce qu’on a fait pendant les 10 ans de règne du Parti Travailliste ? Qu’est-ce que le ministère de l’Agro-Industrie a fait ? D’ailleurs dans la réponse que j’ai donnée plus tôt, une question de lui-même, dont le rapport de l’Audit fait mention, comment les mesures, les schemes qui ont été présentés, qui ont été proposés aux planteurs, n’ont pas donné les résultats escomptés, parce qu’il n’y avait pas vraiment au sein de l’ancien régime une envie de donner le support qu’il fallait aux planteurs. Et d’ailleurs je l’ai dit, et il y a le rapport Statistics Mauritius pour 2016. On a eu le plan stratégique non-sucre 2016-2020. Et depuis son application, j’avais dit 4.7% d’augmentation de la production agricole. Les terres abandonnées, nous les avons identifiées depuis 2015. Combien de terres ont été données à des proches du pouvoir de l’ancien régime et qui étaient restées à l’abandon. On a repris toutes ces terres abandonnées pour pouvoir les donner à de vrais producteurs. Voilà comment le pays était géré avant. Mais on ne peut pas non plus, d’une année à l’autre, sortir d’où on était et passait à une autre étape mais petit à petit on va le faire.

D’ailleurs le plan stipule clairement ce qu’on veut atteindre dans cinq ans. Il parlait aussi du gaspillage dans le secteur de la santé et des suspensions dans la force policière. Il faut voir depuis quand ces policiers suspendus. J’apprends qu’il y a certains qui ont pris leur retraite tout en étant en suspension. Mais tout cela au niveau du gouvernement on est en train de revoir comment arrêter ce genre d’abus. L’indice de confiance est en hausse. Ce n’est pas moi qui le dis c’est la Chambre de Commerce et de l’Industrie. Le FDI pour 2016 était de R13.6 milliards et pour 2017, pour trois mois … Attendez la fin de l’année financière, honorable membre vous allez voir avec tous les projets qui sont dans le pipeline. Avec tout ce qu’on est en train de réaliser, toujours le syndrome – narien pas bon. Le Leader de l’opposition a été ministre pendant les 12 dernières années : ministre du Tourisme, ministre de l’Intégration Sociale, ministre des Finances et Premier ministre adjoint. Hier, il trouvait à dire que les gens sont pauvres à Maurice. La croissance est en baisse. Le chômage est en hausse. La question qu’on doit lui poser. Mais quand il était en position de pouvoir prendre des décisions, de corriger les erreurs, d’améliorer le sort de la population qu’a-t-il fait.

J’ai écouté tranquillement quand les intervenants avant moi ont parlé. J’attends le même quand moi maintenant je suis en train d’intervenir. Vous aurez tous le temps de répondre. Le Leader de l’opposition hier a parlé d’un budget menti-menti parce qu’on avait prédit une croissance de 4.1% mais on va finir à 3.9% alors il trouve cela menti-menti. Laissez-moi dire, M. le président, qu’il était lui-même ministre des Finances en 2012, en 2013 et en 2014. Il avait prédit à l’époque alors qu’il était ministre des Finances une croissance de 4% lors de son discours, hors la croissance a été seulement de 3.4%. En 2013, dans son discours encore une fois, il prédisait 3.4%, la croissance n’était que de 3.2%. En 2014, il avait dit entre 3.8% et 4%, c’était 3.7%. Je peux comprendre, on fait des forecasts mais il y a des choses qui se passent. Nous avons connu l’année dernière le cas du Brexit, les élections aux États-Unis, la nouvelle politique du président Trump, la situation géopolitique dans le monde, le terrorisme, le prix du pétrole, mais bien sûr l’estimation faite à un moment donné peut changer. Mais de là à venir dire que c’est un budget menti-menti, je trouve cela pour quelqu’un qui été ministre des Finances vraiment… Mais ce qui est bon de voir, M. le président – d’ailleurs mon ami l’honorable Mahen Jhugroo avec bien raison de dire il y a quelques temps de cela que le PMSD si li pas en pendan avek MSM, li en pendan li ek PTR. Voilà un petit peu comment le PMSD…
Mais ce qu’il faut savoir M. le président, le Leader de l’opposition, il y a six mois, était encore dans ce gouvernement. Qu’est-ce qu’il avait dit sur le budget 2016/2007. Laissez-moi reprendre du Hansard les extraits de son discours lors des débats du budget 2016/2017. Je dis cela pour que le peuple le juge. Voilà ce qu’il avait déclaré et je cite – “(…)the Budget is excellent dans la forme et dans le fond. I mean it(…)»

“(…)I like this Budget. I like it because it has been well drafted in clear language, the speech was well delivered; (…) the Budget is comprehensive. It is coherent and to me, it is also innovative. ” I must say and this is a compliment again to the Minister of Finance, Madam Speaker, that the Budget is very comprehensive and very exclusive. Everybody finds himself and it is really a Budget of equal opportunities.” Pour conclure, M. le président, il avait lancé avec délectation, et écoutez cela bien – “Madam Speaker, just to end, I would like to say that once again I would like to congratulate my colleague and friend, hon. Pravind Jugnauth, for a beautiful Budget. I would like to say that this Budget, in my opinion, will go a long way to make of Mauritius a better, more prosperous country and a fairer society.” Voilà, quelqu’un qui était là et voilà ce qu’il avait dit …

Eux, ils ont décidé de faire un autre chemin, nous, nous n’allons pas changer notre trajectoire. M. le président, une des priorités de ce gouvernement était d’améliorer le pouvoir d’achat de la population et c’est ce qu’on fait depuis le début de notre mandat. En améliorant la pension de vieillesse de nos retraités, des personnes handicapées. Le taux de la compensation salariale, année après année depuis qu’on est au pouvoir, est beaucoup plus élevé que le taux d’inflation. Les facilités données aux parents pour aider leurs enfants pour les études ; les tarifs d’électricité et les tarifs de l’eau ont été réduits, le prix de gaz, du jamais vu, abaisse de Rs 60 et là le prix de la farine.

Tout cela c’est pour montrer qu’on est cohérent dans notre politique de venir en n’aide aux gens qui sont le plus mal lotis, les gens vulnérables, les gens qui ont plus besoin du support. Il fut un temps, M. le président, où le gouvernement prenait de la poche des petits pour donner aux riches. N’oubliez pas la politique de Rama Sithanen, taxer les petits épargnants, exempter les gros investisseurs. C’était ça la politique de l’ancien régime avec la complicité du PMSD. Voilà la politique de l’ancien régime. Qu’est-ce qu’on a vu cette fois-ci ? Le Premier ministre et ministre des Finances vient avec une mesure innovante pour la première fois. Pour la première fois, c’est la MRA qui va payer aux gens ce qu’on appelle une taxe négative et demander à ceux qui touchent beaucoup plus que R 3.5 m. de payer une taxe de solidarité. Donc, on va prendre aux plus riches pour partager avec les plus pauvres. C’est ça la différence, M. le président, entre ce gouvernement et le précédent gouvernement. M. le président, je crois qu’il existe deux types de politiciens dans la vie. L’un le démagogue, un escroc qui maîtrise la séduction, caresse l’instinct des électeurs et se transforme en charmeur qui promet la tromperie et derrière ce masque, une sourire illuminée des démagogues, se cachent la tricherie, l’illusion et le mensonge. Le second, c’est le pédagogue. Lui, il a un autre caractère. Il n’est pas vendeur de rêves, il n’a qu’un intérêt, celui du peuple et d’un pays. Il n’a qu’une arme, la raison, la franchise et la vérité. Le pédagogue est courageux, le démagogue est perfide et cherche toujours à nuire.

M. le président, des gens disent qu’ils veulent faire de la politique autrement, gouverner autrement. Ça me fait penser à un certain Eric Stauffer. Ça vous dit quelque chose !

Survoler le Mont-Blanc, M. le président, en jet privé ! Gouverner autrement, M. le président, voilà un peu ce que préconisent ces gens-là. Gouverner autrement !

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, this Budget is for all Mauritians. Just as the sunlight gives energy to all, just like water never asks anyone about his appartenance politique but quenches everyone’s thirst, whatever criticism will be levelled against us, we will stay focused on our mission, we will stay united. M. le président, comment peut-on oublier cette tâche qu’on avait en décembre 2014, les frasques de l’ancien gouvernement ? Qui a oublié comment ils étaient en train de dilapider le fond public.

Ce que je peux dire, M. le président, power is an opportunity to serve, power is not an opportunity to store dollars and euros in coffre fort, power is not Macarena party, power is not allowing maitresse to have big fortune. Power does not mean having a Prime Minister qui aime les escapades pour aller rouler les cigares sur les cuisses dans son campement. Power is not bouillabaisse party in Davos, power is about doing things for the well-being of the people. We bear this well in mind, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the people of our country can rely on us. We belong to a team that thinks of moving society magnificently. We are doing it with good heart. Ce que je peux dire, ce qu’on a accompli depuis qu’on est au pouvoir, M. le président, j’ai fait mention tout à l’heure comment le chômage est en baisse et la croissance en hausse. Le leader de l’opposition parlait du secteur du tourisme et il prétend que c’est lui qui est le seul responsable de la croissance dans ce secteur. Mais il était ministre du Tourisme dans le passé, pourquoi à l’époque la croissance n’était pas aussi élevée qu’on a connu depuis qu’on est au pouvoir ? Parce qu’il y a eu une politique différente. On a permis beaucoup plus de créativité. Il y a eu l’Air Corridor entre l’Asie et l’Afrique, et on ne va pas s’arrêter là. Alors quand c’est bon, le coq aime prendre la paternité…

Aujourd’hui l’environnement économique s’améliore. Le gouvernement est devenu un facilitateur afin de permettre aux gens d’opérer d’une manière efficace et efficiente. C’est ça l’objectif de ce gouvernement, M. le président. Et c’est ça qu’ils refusent de voir. Aujourd’hui, lorsqu’on a des pays amis qui nous aident, ils ne sont pas contents. Ça les dérange. Alors ils viennent avec toutes sortes de……manigances. Franchement, je dis, aujourd’hui, que les mauriciens ne sont pas dupes. Peut-être fût un temps où on pouvait faire peur aux gens et c’est à cause de cela qu’ils ont pu convaincre ces personnes de voter contre l’indépendance. Mais ça ne va plus marcher cette fois-ci, M. le président.

M. le président… la relation diplomatique… La relation diplomatique entre Maurice et beaucoup de pays amis sont en train de se renforcer. Ce ne sont pas des gens qui ne veulent pas voir que le pays se développe, il nous faut empêcher d’aller et de réaliser le rêve de chaque Mauricienne, de chaque Mauricien de ce pays.

M. le président, allow me now to report on the performance of the agricultural sector and let me go through what we have realised for the past financial year. I will start with the sugarcane sector first, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. As you are aware the sector continues to contribute significantly to the economy in terms of foreign exchange income earned on the sale of refined white sugar and also special sugar to the EU market and also with regard to the production of electricity from bagasse and the production of industrial ethanol and rum from molasses. But still, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the sugarcane industry is trying to find its way forward following the major reforms in the EU sugar regime that had drastically eroded the preferential treatment previously enjoyed under the defunct Sugar Protocol. The forthcoming abolition of quotas in the EU internal market as from the end of September this year also represents a major threat for the export of our sugar on that market. Permettez-moi de référer aussi au discours de l’honorable Selvon hier. Elle parlait justement de ce changement qui aura lieu en septembre, de cette année, en ce qui concerne l’abolition totale des quotas sur le marché européen et elle parlait de la baisse dans le prix par rapport à cette abolition. Mais je dois faire ressortir que la baisse, depuis l’annonce même de cette abolition, avait déjà pris effet à partir de 2013. C’est pour cela que le gouvernement était venu avec des mesures pour accompagner les planteurs et surtout les petits planteurs. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, sugar production has, for two consecutive years, dropped below the psychological level of 400,000 tonnes. However, a slight improvement has been made in 2016 with the sugar production of 389,000 tonnes compared to 369,000 tonnes in 2015 representing a 5.5 % increase. Likewise, export price of sugar has increased to Rs 15,550 per tonne as opposed to Rs 13,160 per tonne in 2015. And the final provisional figure regarding revenue generated by the industry is estimated at Rs 10.6 billion for crop 2016 compared to a revenue of Rs 8.1 billion for crop 2015. However, the area harvested has declined and we are coming with measures to address this problem as well. The contribution of small and medium planters in the sugarcane industry deserves to be highlighted and praised, and Government, in these difficult times, will ensure that these planters get a fair deal to encourage them to stay in the cane cultivation business. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the House will recall that special measures have been taken by Government in 2015 and 2016 to ensure that planters obtain an adequate revenue. These include the payment of compensation under the Sugar Cane Sustainability Fund and the Sugar Insurance Fund. Moreover, planters producing up to 60 tonnes of sugar were exempted from payment of insurance premium. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, except for the compensation from the Sugar Insurance Fund, Government has again made provision for payment of compensation under the Sugar Cane Sustainability Fund and exemption from payment of insurance premium by planters producing up to 60 tonnes of sugar for Crop 2017. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Sugar Industry Efficiency Act 2001 was amended in December last year to, inter alia, make provision for new revenue streams for the planters and these include – (a) The ethanol framework to promote the use of molasses for production of fuel ethanol; (b) The renewable sugarcane industry based biomass framework to promote production of energy and biomass; (c) The sugar based agro-industry framework to promote sugar based agro industry. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the MCIA is holding consultations with the relevant stakeholders for the elaboration of these frameworks and they will be finalised shortly. Another issue that concerns this Ministry, this Government, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, is the abandonment of land under sugarcane cultivation, which is growing at an alarming rate.
As announced in the last Budget, an Agricultural Land Management System has been set up under the aegis of the Mauritius Cane Industry Authority to address this problem. Consultations have been held with the relevant stakeholders and many planters have indicated their willingness to replant their fields subject to Government assisting them to meet the replantation costs. I am pleased to note that, in this Budget, a provision of Rs 50 M is being accordingly made to address this request. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am pleased to inform the House that the MCIA has already identified more than 1,000 hectares of abandoned land and has succeeded to bring back 200 hectares under cane cultivation this year. The target for 2017/2018 is 500 hectares and the objective is to put the abandoned land not only under cane cultivation, but also under other crops, including fruits and vegetables and macadamia, for which there is a big potential. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, as at date, 10,787 hectares of land belonging to small and medium planters have been regrouped, de-rocked and planted, representing 90% of the targeted extent of 12,000 hectares. The extent earmarked for 2017/2018 is 400 hectares, and a provision of Rs 160 m. has been made in this Budget. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, for the crop 2016, some 3,500 tonnes of canes of small and medium planters were left on the fields and could not be harvested because of labour shortage. We, therefore, welcome the measure announced in the Budget Speech regarding importation of foreign labour by SMEs and cooperatives and for the agro-industry sector as well. This measure will definitely be of great help to the planting community, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. In order to facilitate harvest of crops of small and medium planters, the MCIA has embarked on a pilot project for the testing of two harvesters on planters’ fields during the 2017 harvest season. Moreover, the Agricultural Mechanisation Unit of the MCIA will introduce a service of bell loaders to individual and regrouped planters for the mechanical loading of canes during the harvest 2017 across the island at a concessionary rate. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the MCIA will also provide additional support to planters, under the Planters Fund, to facilitate access to the fields through road mending and other infrastructural works.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, innovation in sugar cane breeding is necessary in order to meet the new challenges facing the industry. The support of innovative technologies is needed to ensure the sustainability of the industry. The MSIRI will implement the New Plant Breeding Techniques whose main driver is its potential to hasten the breeding process and its capacity to target specific traits, including reduced flowering, pest and disease resistance, resistance to climate change and improved nutrient intake. This technology, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, will enable a better performance of new varieties to be developed within a shorter period of time. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the MSIRI also intends to make use of a drone technology in the agricultural sector to acquire data in a smarter and more effective manner. Furthermore, once the data is acquired, it will be processed and used for a whole host of activities in the agricultural sector, from crop management to monitoring and taking timely actions. Necessary provisions are being made in this Budget for these two research projects. Speaking of research, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, a series of measures have been announced to build an innovative and globally competitive Mauritius. The agro-biotechnology sector can contribute significantly to enhance our global competitiveness by shifting from traditional breeding methods to the use of scientific tools and modern techniques such as genetic engineering, molecular markers, molecular diagnostics, vaccines and tissue culture. A Bio-Technology Institute will be set up under the aegis of my Ministry to further promote research and development in the agro-industry sector.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, let me now turn to food crop production. As the House is aware, production of food crops, that is, vegetables and fruits has registered a downward trend since 2013 despite several schemes introduced under the Food Security Strategy Plan 2013-2015. With the implementation of the Non-Sugar Sector Strategic Plan 2016-2020 for the food crop, livestock and forestry sector, and the review of schemes for the food crop sector, the trend in agricultural production has been reversed, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. Agricultural production has registered an increase of 4.7% from 102,663 tonnes in 2015 to 107,457 in 2016 despite a reduction in cultivable area. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, a number of schemes have been introduced to assist farmers to shift to sheltered farming and to mechanise their production systems through the purchase of agricultural equipment and machinery to address some of the main problems they are facing. These problems range from old age, labour shortage, increased cost of production to pest and diseases, natural disasters and calamities and effects of climate change. However, funds provided under these schemes are limited and not all the planters can benefit therefrom. That is why, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the grant facility for sheltered farming was increased from Rs 250,000 to Rs 400,000 to encourage planters to undertake crop production under protected structures. So far, more than Rs12 m. has been disbursed to 65 beneficiaries. Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, with regard to the scheme for the purchase of agricultural and processing equipment, the grant has been increased from Rs100,000 to Rs350,000 and a sum of Rs 5.5 m. has been allocated to 133 beneficiaries. 2,487 fruit growers have taken advantage of the benefit under the Fruit Protection Scheme for the purchase of bird nets to protect their litchi plantation from bats. A sum of Rs 16.7 M. has been disbursed to that effect. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, most of the 8,000 planters engaged in food crop production are small holders who are facing difficulties to maintain production at a reasonable level. They also do not have the means to contribute to the Sheltered Farming Scheme and the Purchase of Agricultural Equipment Scheme. The cost of a greenhouse is relatively high and is out of reach of the small planters. FAREI is currently discussing with a French supplier of greenhouses, who has expressed interest to export his products to Mauritius, and the cost of a greenhouse is comparatively lower than prevailing prices on the local market and the quality is good. If this materialises, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, greenhouses may be made accessible to small growers at affordable price. Moreover, enquiries are also being made for the import of low-cost greenhouses from China. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, a Biofarming Promotion Scheme has been introduced last year to promote biofarming activities. Around 100 applications have been received and, so far, 19 Biofarming Development Certificates have been issued by my Ministry. The dedicated organic zone of 65 Arpents at Britannia was inaugurated by the Prime Minister on 27 February this year. The beneficiaries have already followed the necessary training and will start cultivation soon. The bio products are expected to be on the market by October this year. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, an Organic Research Station has been launched at Pamplemousses early this month. This Research Station will provide training in organic production to farmers. 10 new biofertilizers have been recommended for use in organic farming. 20 bioproducts, i.e., 12 biopesticides and 8 biofungicides have also been recommended. 3,000 farmers have been sensitised on sustainable agriculture and biofarming techniques.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, my Ministry is introducing the Skills and Entrepreneurship Development Programme for Educated Youth in the Food Crop Sector. This programme is a unique opportunity for educated youth to venture into commercial agricultural production and become self-employed. The programme is so designed to foster greater participation in agricultural development and further encourage the youth to engage in the field of innovative agriculture and agro-processing. More than 50 educated youths have expressed interest to participate in this programme. The programme is expected to start by August next. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatograph with Double Mass Spectrometer for the analysis of fruits and vegetables for pesticide residue has been purchased and will be delivered shortly. This equipment will also be used for detection of ethephon in pineapple, tomato and other matrices. Installation, commissioning and training are expected to be completed by end of July. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the building plan for the fruit fly rearing facility has been prepared and tenders will be launched by the end of this month. It is expected that 10 million sterile flies will be released weekly by the end of June 2018 which will eliminate fruit flies that are actually causing large losses to fruits and vegetables. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the National Wholesale Market Project is under way and the consultants are finalising the designs of the building as well as the tender documents. Tender for the construction of the Wholesale Market is expected to be launched by October this year.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the production of green tea leaves went up by 8.5% from 6,732 tonnes in 2015 to 7,301 tonnes in 2016 despite a reduction in acreage. Production of manufactured tea increased by 4.5% from 1,295 tonnes in 2015 to 1,353 tonnes in 2016. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with a view to further developing the tea sector, 100 Arpents of land has been released for tea cultivation. A new tea nursery for tea plantlets production is being set up at La Brasserie and will be operational by the end of this month. Under the Tea Support Scheme, 1,120 planters have received hand-pruning shears as well as fertilizer for their tea plantation. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, with regard to future prospects, 20 mini shade tunnels will be constructed for propagation of tea plantlets from cuttings. A Tea Unit will be set up at NAPRO to better address problems faced by tea planters. A new tea plantation will be established at Grande Chartreuse. A Chinese promoter, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, will engage in tea plantation and tea manufacturing in Mauritius. The company proposes to buy the ex-Dubreuil Tea Factory Building and is awaiting necessary clearances from relevant authorities to embark on this project. Furthermore, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, and this has to be underlined, for the first time, the tea-growers are being given due consideration. For the last ten years, they have been left on their own by the previous Government. There used to be a Tea Board, whereby they could, at least, go and address their problems. This was dismantled by the previous Government. And they had nowhere and no one to go to. But since we have been at the head of this country, we have been giving them due consideration. All the planters and the growers, be it the sugarcane planters, be it the vegetable planters, they were entitled to a 4×4 duty-free vehicle. This budget is going to allow tea growers to also benefit from 4×4 duty-free vehicle for the very first time, thanks to the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
But syndrome ‘narien pas bon’, non ? Over and above that exemption, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, they will be also entitled to VAT Refund Scheme for tea planting equipment, so that they can increase their tea production.

Let me now turn to the livestock sector, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. As the House is aware, the country was hit by the Foot and Mouth Disease in August last year. Prompt remedial measures were taken and the disease was successfully contained within a short period of time. In fact, no further sign of the disease was detected as from mid-September last year and breeders who lost their animals because of the Foot and Mouth Disease were adequately compensated. A sum of Rs32 m. was paid as compensation, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. All animals susceptible to be affected by the disease have been vaccinated and the third and last dose of the vaccine has already been administered. A Sero-surveillance is now being implemented to monitor the presence of the disease. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, there was also the occurrence of the Salmonella Disease that affected the poultry production of small breeders. Necessary measures were immediately taken to cull all infected birds on affected farms. The Poultry Breeding Centre which produces day-old chicks for sale to small breeders was temporarily closed to review the existing bio security measures. Corrective measures have been taken and the breeding centre will resume its operation this month and sale of day-old chicks to breeders will start in February next year. It is worth pointing out that breeders who incurred losses because of that disease have also been adequately compensated, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir. The Heifer Farm Project and the Livestock Zone Project at Melrose over a total extent of 40 acres of land are being implemented and it is expected that the farms will be operational early next year. Hier l’honorable Barbier faisait référence à cette ferme et se posait la question où on en est avec ce projet. Voilà, M. le président, le projet est déjà bien entamé et bien sûr le projet va être réalisé au début de l’année prochaine. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, Mauritius has over the past 10 years witnessed several outbreaks of diseases many of which were exotic such as the African Swine Fever in 2007, the Bovine Tuberculosis in 2011, the contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia in 2013 and the Foot and Mouth Disease and Salmonellosis in 2016. The cumulative impact of these diseases on the national economy and the livelihood of farmers is very significant. Diseases impact negatively on the profitability of livestock sector and also affect food supply and food security. My Ministry will enlist consultancy services to make a comprehensive assessment of bio security measures in place at national level and will come up with a bio security plan comprising inter alia a contingency plan for notifiable animal diseases that would prevent the entry and spread of diseases. The terms of reference of the consultancy services are ready and an international request for proposals will be launched shortly. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, despite significant efforts made to boost the livestock sector, production and productivity have not reached the expected level. Major constraints identified are, among others, illegal slaughter, lack of traceability and movement control, absence of a reliable record system on animals and lack of information on the sector for policy-making. A national animal identification system will be set up to accurately register all livestock and to determine their exact location. The identification system will be electronically linked to an information system to enable access of information by all institutions and stakeholders involved in the livestock sector. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, the sheep population has witnessed an increasing trend from 1510 heads in 2008 to 2845 heads in 2016. The number of farmers has also increased from 147 to 245. However, one of the major constraints limiting the development of this sector is the unavailability of improved genetic stock at affordable price. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, a sheep reproduction farm will be set up at Salazie to rear a maximum of 200 animals. Parent stocks of improved genetics will be imported to upgrade the local sheep herd. Necessary provisions to kick start this project have been made in this Budget. With regard to honey production and promotion of bee keeping, two bee reserve zones have been set up at Bras d’Eau over 20 hectares of land and Les Salines Black River over five hectares. 215 bee keepers have been trained on new techniques of bee keeping. Honey production in 2016 was 20 tonnes and it is expected to go up now with these new reserve zones. My Ministry is planning to create two additional zones with the plantation of 10,000 melliferous plants at Plaine Sophie and La Ferme. The salient features of this project include training of bee keepers in management of bee colonies, control of pests and diseases with bio products, organic certification of honey to enable its branding and pollination of crops to increase production of quality fruits and vegetables.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, let me now talk about a very serious and sensitive issue which is the control of stray dogs in the country. The population of stray dogs continues to increase and complaints are received daily regarding the problems that these animals are causing. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, from the time of the Mauritius Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), the only method used to control stray dogs was the catch and euthanasia method. This practice has continued with the creation of the MSAW. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, since some two years now, an aggressive campaign is being undertaken against MSAW especially with regard to the catch and euthanasia practice of eliminating stray dogs. This campaign has attained an international dimension and MSAW has had to restrain its activities to dog catching thus aggravating the situation. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, MSAW, by virtue of its very appellation, is called upon to promote animal welfare and the catch and euthanasia practice does not fit with this mandate. The role and function of MSAW will thus be revisited and greater emphasis will henceforth be placed on sterilization rather than euthanizing dogs. It is proposed to set up dog shelters in different parts of the country to accommodate stray dogs after their sterilization. It is expected that NGOs defending animal causes will assist in this project. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, an animal control unit will be established to take care of stray animals like dogs, cats and monkeys that represent dangerous risks to the society especially if they carry contagious diseases.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would now like to highlight the progress that my Ministry has made for the preservation of our existing forests and our biodiversity. As the House is aware, due to climate change and development pressures mainly, we are facing major challenges to maintain our existing forest cover which has kept on decreasing over the years. Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, being conscious of the urgent need to reverse the trend, my Ministry has embarked, since last year, on a very ambitious and strategic programme to plant 500,000 trees over the next five years. This programme aims at enhancing our forest cover and more specifically at increasing our native forest from 2% to 12%. The programme has gathered momentum and so far more than 100,000 plants have been planted in many forest areas and also non forest areas. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, our public gardens, parks and our islets nature reserves will be given a special uplifting to promote nature based activities for the benefit and enjoyment of both the population and tourists visitors.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, there are several public gardens in Mauritius, the main ones being the Pamplemousses Botanic Garden, the Botanical Garden of Curepipe, the Balfour Garden in Beau Bassin, the Telfair Garden in Souillac, the Robert Edward Hart Garden at Les Salines, les Jardins de la Compagnie and the Vallée d’Osterlog Endemic Garden. There are also two national parks, the Black River Gorges National Park and the Bras d’Eau National Park and three nature walks at Mon Vert, Sophie and Powder Mills. Several islets nature reserves have potential for the development of eco-tourism activities. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, these public gardens and parks are managed by different institutions, but in a rather uncoordinated manner I should say. The general state of some of the public gardens leaves much to be desired. It is proposed to setup a coordinating committee under the aegis of my Ministry comprising all concerned stakeholders to work out an integrated management plan for all public gardens and parks with a view to promoting them as major tourist attractions. Furthermore, the Master Plan for the rehabilitation of the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden has been finalised and will soon be implemented to give back to the garden its real historical, cultural and botanical identity. Le Chateau Mon Plaisir which was under renovation, will reopen in the coming months and it will be used in the most optimal manner which befits such a historical symbol and heritage. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, we are also giving a particular attention to the embellishment of our motorways to make them more attractive and aesthetic with the appropriate plants. My Ministry will enlist the services of a landscape consultant to work on the landscape design for our motorways including the roundabouts, central verges and the road sides. Provision has also been made in this Budget for the upkeep of the green areas along the motorway.

Mr Deputy Speaker Sir, our endemic fauna and flora are unique in the world for which our country is recognised as a biodiversity hotspot. We have a duty to protect our endemic fauna and flora and their living habitats so as to halt further biodiversity loss. My Ministry recently launched two major policy strategies, namely, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2025 and the Protected Area Network Expansion Strategy 2017-2026. These two strategies will be our roadmap for the next 10 years and I am fully confident that in the long term we will ensure the survival of a lot more of our endemic species than we have today.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I have given an overview of the activities undertaken in the agricultural sector at the National Level and at the level of my Ministry. There are still many challenges that need to be addressed.

To conclude, I would just say a word on my constituency. I must thank the hon. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance with regard to one project, he himself when he was Deputy Prime Minister in 2005, he initiated that project. And I am talking about creating a waterfront at the village of Deux Frères. Unfortunately, with the change of Government, because it was a project of hon. Pravind Jugnauth, the previous Government cancelled that project to the detriment of the people of Deux Frères and the surrounding villages, par pure mesquinerie, Monsieur le président. I am glad today that the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance is providing funds so that this project can be realised. 12 years later, as rightly pointed out by hon. Rutnah! This is how the previous Government was governing this country. Because for the remote village, somewhere lost in the area of what we call la côte, they thought it not fit to have this kind of infrastructure. But again, we have our Prime Minister who is someone, like I said, who would not only look for big towns and big villages to provide them with infrastructure. He is also providing, all over the island, infrastructure that is going to improve the quality of life of each and every Mauritian. Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, like I have said, this budget, I have no doubt will give a boost to this country and is paving the way for a new Mauritius. We can only be thankful to the Prime Minister for having put so much funds in this budget so that we can realise the aspirations of all Mauritians. With these words, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I thank you for your attention and I thank the hon. Prime Minister for his excellent budget. Thank you!”

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