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Press Release : Validation Workshop on the Development of a nutraceutical framework and industry in Mauritius

Globally, nutraceuticals are gaining prominence and are becoming a part of the average consumer’s diet as nutrition care, which forms an integral part of preventive healthcare, and is undergoing a major transformation. This is mainly due to the growing incidence of lifestyle-related diseases, rising life expectancy and inadequate nutrition. Nutraceuticals not only help treat common ailments but are also packed with nutrients or phytochemicals that reduce the risk of cancer, heart diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes. 

Considering the hardship faced by sugarcane growers and in the absence of an alternative source of revenue from their lands, growers are gradually moving out of sugarcane cultivation, thus leaving their lands unexploited. The nutraceutical industry offers new opportunities for them through cultivation and sale of specific fruits & vegetables. Therefore, to foster the development of this new growth pole, the Mauritian Government had initiated the development of a nutraceutical framework to draft a clear roadmap with the objective of charting the way for the private sector to engage into large-scale production of nutraceuticals and functional foods.  

Following a study initiated by the Economic Development Board (EDB), with the collaboration of Professor Theeshan Bahorun and  of the University of Mauritius and Professor Okezie Aruoma University of California respectively, 126 terrestrial and marine organisms with nutraceutical potential have been identified out of which 7 can yield potentially high return on investment, namely: Moringa, Papaya, Strawberry Guava, Tea, Pineapple, Pomegranate and Noni. Land analysis for large-scale production of nutraceutical plant species has also been undertaken and a user-friendly database with optimized and organised information delving into the nutraceutical business has been created.

The EDB, in collaboration with the University of Mauritius, organised a validation workshop on the Development of a Nutraceutical framework and industry in Mauritius on 23rd September 2020 at the Hennessy Park Hotel, Ebène. This event brought together close to 80 participants from the private and public sectors.  

In his welcome statement, Mr. Hemraj Ramnial, the Chairman of EDB stated that “An important facet of Mauritius’s future lies in its indigenous medicinal plants’ resources for the production of nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. The nutraceutical framework is interesting as it provides for new perspectives for the Agro-Industry through the integration of strong branding structures based on scientific research and innovation”. He further underlined that “In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, people feel more than ever the need to be safe, to be equipped from an immune perspective, to be prepared for the next pandemic. Recent research and findings therefore shows that nutraceuticals are expected to create new opportunities in the health and wellness industry”.

The opening session of the validation workshop was followed by roundtable discussions which laid emphasis on: (i) the selection of the most appropriate plants for nutraceutical production/land availability and suitability (ii) marketing strategies for Mauritian nutraceuticals/ value chain analysis for priority crops (iii) regulatory framework for nutraceuticals, and (iv) masterplan for the nutraceutical industry in Mauritius.  This deliberation exercise has provided participants with the opportunity to consider the potential of the nutraceutical sector in depth, shared their suggestions and challenge each other’s opinions as well as develop their views to reach an informed end position. This exercise will contribute to finalise the report on the development of the Nutraceutical framework and industry in Mauritius.

Steps have already been taken to set-up an appropriate framework and ecosystem to help transform crops with high nutraceutical potential into value-added products. Moreover, the Government of Mauritius has introduced appropriate fiscal incentives to attract investment in this sector, such as an 8-year tax holiday. Following this technical workshop, it is expected that the proper structure will be set-up to spur sustainable development and entrepreneurial ventures in the agricultural and health sectors, through the production of value-added nutraceutical products and services.