Nelly Bassily | January 11, 2010
Shailendra Singh Totaram stops to speak with one of his dairy cows. “Eat, my friend,” he encourages her. “You have to give plenty of milk.”
At 28 years of age, the farmer runs a successful dairy farm in northern Mauritius. He grew up with cows. Mr. Totaram’s parents and grandparents sold milk for extra income. But when he was just a child, his family gave up the business. Cheap imported powdered milk was flooding the market. There was no money to be made in local dairy.
Mr. Totaram’s family was not the only one to abandon dairy farming. Some were forced out by low prices. Others chose higher paying jobs in the textile industry. Before the 1980s, there were 10,000 small-scale dairy producers on the island state. Now there are fewer than 2,000.
Fortunately, Mr. Totaram is one of many young farmers now taking up dairy. The government has introduced a program to encourage local production. Grants and loans are available to purchase equipment, livestock, and land.
Mr. Totaram’s return to dairy began with a training session offered by the Agricultural Research and Extension Unit. He now has 20 cows. He keeps them in a concrete shed outside the village of Triolet. Each day, he sells his milk to a local food processor. Mr. Totaram says he will strive to become the best farmer on the island.
Other young farmers share this goal. Ten of them recently joined the Cowbreeders Cooperative Society in the centre of the island. Together, they produce 1,500 litres of milk each day.
The island’s farmers are slowly increasing local production. But the process of restoring the dairy industry in Mauritius will take time. Currently, the country’s producers meet only two per cent of local demand. The government hopes that by 2015, local farmers will provide 10 per cent of the island’s milk.