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Mauritius is home to a rejuvenating tea industry.

Presently there are six active tea estates in Mauritius, the tiny island off the coast of East Africa. A group of four factories (La Pipe, Belle Rive, Dubreuil, Nouvelle France) is operated by the Mauritius Tea Factories Company Ltd (TEAFAC) and produces tea mainly for export. There are also two privately owned factories; Corson, producing mainly for domestic consumption, and Bois Cheri which produces for both the local market and export.

The Mauritius Tea Factories Co. Ltd (TEAFAC) was formed following the government's decision to privatize the manufacturing activities of the Tea Development Authority and make them become profitable. The majority shareholder is the government of Mauritius.

The TEAFAC Estates are now getting a major overhaul under the direction of a team of consultants brought in from India. These experts were hired by TM&MC Pvt. Ltd., an Indian consulting firm owned and operated by Basant Dube. This company is well known in tea production circles around the world for its expertise in all facets of tea growing, manufacturing and marketing. Their three year mission, which began in mid-1991, is to improve the overall yield and quality of the tea, marketing, and ultimately the profitability. The government is cutting back dramatically on its subsidy to the tea industry which must soon stand on its own.

The Indian consultants include a field expert, factory expert, managing director and marketing manager. The general manager of TEAFAC, Sureshchadra Fakun, is their Mauritian counterpart. Together, they have the responsibility to implement the Public Tea Sector Rehabilitation Plan within a period of three years. Improvements are already evident in all areas of TEAFAC business and expectations for the coming season are high.

The Factories

Belle Rive Factory has an annual capacity of 1.2 million kilos. La Pipe products 2.0 million kilos. Both these factories use a Rotorvane/CTC method of manufacturing. Nouvelle France has an annual capacity of .08 million kilos and makes both Orthodox and Rotovane/CTC teas. Dubreuil, with CLC/CTC manufacture, has capacity for 2.0 million kilos. As a result of TEAFAC'S nationalization program, the old Chartreuse factory has been closed down.

The efficiency of the four factories is continuously being improved with modern techniques and new controls being introduced. Under the direction of the factory expert, equipment is being modernized and as funds become available, some new machinery is being purchased.

Green Leaf - "China Jat"

In 1986, there were 3,776 hectares under cultivation and 6,389 tons of tea were exported. In 1990, only 2,905 hectares were producing with exports dropping to 4,414 tons. During that period, green leaf production dropped from 43,423 tons to 29,868 tons. The mandate for TEAFAC's consultants has been to improve both the quality and the quantity of green leaf.

Green leaf comes mainly from smallholder co-operatives who cultivate approximately 2,079 hectares of "China Jat" bushes. Tea plucking is done manually, sometimes with the use of shears. It is in this area where advancements are being made. Incentives have been given to the smallholders to improve the quality of the leaf delivered to the factories. Previously, the payment for Green Leaf was equal for all. Now, new standards have been introduced and rewards are being given for better quality leaf, with poor leaf being turned away. The growers seem to be welcoming this scheme and the quality of the final product is improving.

Mauritius teas are mainly of CTC style of manufacture. Tea tasters describe them as being coppery in color with some flavor and good body. U.K. blenders place them in a category between average Malawis and medium Kenya teas. They add color and body to a blend and flavor during the peak quality periods of December and January.

The Season

The growing season for Mauritius teas is normally between October and May with December and January being the peak months. Tea does grow year round. However, during the months of June through September, the temperature is generally cool, slowing growth. This down time is used for pruning and fertilizing the tea bushes in preparation for the heavier flushing period to come.

Export Packing

Packing of the end products, particularly all main grade teas is generally done in the standard five ply aluminum lined paper sacks. The teas are palletized on the estates, stretch wrapped and prepared for shipment. Containerization is mostly done on the estate, except in instances where teas from several factories are to be combined in a container. There is little opportunity for damage to occur as the port is in close proximity to the tea growing areas.

Shipping

Shipping is made through Port Louis where several maritime companies service the import and export business of the country. There are frequent sailings to the U.K. and major European ports, the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Pakistan and other destinations. Freight rates are competitive and sailings frequent.

Marketing

Mauritius teas are marketed around the world. Historically, the majority of teas found their way to the United Kingdom and both South Africa and Russia have long been loyal customers. Pakistan usage is increasing and now expectations are high that these teas, with improved quality and regular dependable shipping, will find their way into more North American blends.

Sales of TEAFAC teas are made privately through a selected network of agents and importers strategically located in consuming countries around the globe. A small percentage of production is consigned to the London auctions where TEAFAC uses the services of two major brokers to place their teas in both the landed and offshore sales.

History, Economy & People

Dutch sailors visited and named the island "Mauritius" in 1598. They established a trading settlement in 1638 introducing sugar cane, domestic animals and deer. They abandoned the island in 1710. The French arrived in 1715 and soon had a naval base at Port Louis and began developing the country. This lasted until the British captured the island in 1810. A treaty was made in 1815 ceding all rights to Great Britain.

Mauritius is a member of the Commonwealth and enjoys an independent democratic government. Politics are a way of life and fortunately all parties seem to favor a free market economy. Elections are held every five years, or sooner, as in recent times, there have been a number of revolving door coalitions. They were the first Commonwealth country to become an associate member of the EEC and are an active member of the organization of African unity.

Sugar was the mainstay of the Mauritian economy until 1985 when clothing manufacturing took over as the leading foreign exchange earner. The government realized the need for diversification when the basically one crop economy went into a tailspin in the 1970's. Incentives were given to new free zone business, general corporate taxes were slashed, the airport modernized, port expanded, roads built and an export processing zone created. This all helped to lure new business mainly in the clothing and textile sector. Today, the economy is vibrant and healthy.

As a result of a vigorous promotion campaign and in response to the positive investment climate, a hotel building boom has recently come about. Some 300,000 tourists are expected to visit the island this year.

Mauritius enjoys a high literacy rate of 94.5%. This provides an intelligent work force speaking both English and French. Employment is high and growth has averaged around six percent a year for the last decade.

The people are multi-cultural and make an unique blend originating mainly from Europe, India, Africa and China. While maintaining much of their culture and tradition, they flourish in peace and harmony. The current strong economy, stable government and beautiful scenery make Mauritius a pleasant place to visit, holiday or just grow tea.

by Peter J. Scandrett Vice President Holliday & Scandrett International Inc.

Toronto, Onatario, Canada
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Scandrett, Peter J.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Words:1303
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