In the wake of changes in the agro-industry sector, a revised set of skills and competencies is needed on the part of job seekers to address the new challenges ahead.

The findings of the recent Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) survey on skills shortage showed that 59% of employers in the agro-industry sector feel that Mauritius is experiencing labour shortage at the national level, threatening food production and correspondingly, food security.

Accordingly, taking cognizance of the importance of the agro-industry sector, a Skills Interface Platform for the sector is being organized today, Wednesday 25 June 2014, by the HRDC at NG Tower, Ebène to debate on the issue.

The platform brings together experts from both sides, employers and employees, to discuss the market demand and the supply of labour.

It will also serve as an opportunity to solicit the views of employers, industry operators, training providers and universities.

The workshop will focus on key issues to examine whether educational institutions and training providers give job seekers the opportunity to acquire the skills in agriculture required to operate in today’s modern agricultural industries; as well as the expectations of employers and job seekers.

It will also be an opportunity for stakeholders to ensure that the agricultural curriculum is revised and updated.

According to HRDC, agriculture is more than just farming the land and rearing animals. It is the lifeblood of the country as well as a source of food, animal feed and even provides fuel.

In addition, agriculture has multiple dimensions includes mitigating climate change, regulating water, controlling erosion and providing habitats for wildlife.

Agriculture generated 3.3% of the country’s GDP in 2013, compared to 3.4% in 2012, while the primary sector as a whole (including agriculture, fishing, forestry and extractive industries) employed 46,400 people in 2013, up from 45,300 in 2012.

However, many people, including the youth, have a negative perception of the industry.

Hence, the need to create the necessary awareness on career options relating to research, environmental management, engineering, financial management and other technical areas.

The final outcome of the workshop will be for the HRDC to come up with short-term and medium-term training programmes that will address the skills requirements in the sector.

A report by the Agriculture Ministry in Mauritius notes that annual food crop production turns around only a fourth of the total food requirements while the remaining three-fourths – comprising staple food such as wheat, rice, onion, garlic, canned tomato for cooking and fruits – are imported.

Further, the Agricultural Ministry’s Strategic Plan 2013-2015 states that labour scarcity, apart from availability of agricultural land and inputs such as agrochemicals, is one of the major factors limiting agricultural production, which may be expected to impact food security.

Finally, it may be noted that the overall region of Sub-Saharan Africa has a poor record in food security.

The Global Food Security index 2014 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) showed that the bottom ten economies are all from Sub-Saharan Africa (except Haiti) and lack resources as well as development necessary to ensure basic food safety.

Low-income countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, got the lowest scores for food availability, displayed high levels of food loss and low diet diversification, protein quality and nutritional standards, pointing to increased food vulnerability.

However, the report remarked an increase in food security across the world in 2014, noting that though developed countries continued to have the highest levels of food security while Sub-Saharan African countries remained at the bottom of the rankings, the gap between the highest and lowest performers narrowed.

Overall, Sub-Saharan Africa’s score improvement was nearly double that recorded in North America and Europe.

Image (EIU): The Global Food Security index 2014 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) showed that the bottom ten economies are all from Sub-Saharan Africa, except for Haiti.

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