04/06/2008 - 22:00

Mauritian trade taking off

04/06/2008 - 22:00

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A 50 per cent increase in perishable exports from Western Australia during the past 12 months has contributed to a decision by Air Mauritius to provide a third weekly freight flight from July.

TRADE BOOST: Until recently, most of the freight transported to Mauritius was by sea freight. Photo: Tim van Bronswijk

A 50 per cent increase in perishable exports from Western Australia during the past 12 months has contributed to a decision by Air Mauritius to provide a third weekly freight flight from July.

Air Mauritius, which has experienced significant growth in passenger numbers during the past year, also transports a considerable amount of export produce from WA. Exports to Mauritius were predominantly via sea freight until recently.

However, a 25-strong Mauritius delegation visited WA last week and told trade and tourism representatives that demand from Mauritian domestic and international hoteliers had become more immediate, with distributors requiring produce with far less lead-time.

Mauritius Deputy Prime Minister Xavier Luc Duval said the trade delegation was designed to learn more about the Australian and WA marketplace, and to increase the visibility of Mauritius on the world stage.

"Obviously as the economy grows, wealth is shifting around the world and we also in Mauritius have our economy growing, where before our main markets have been in Europe," Mr Duval told WA Business News.

"Now we're looking at what's happening around the world. We've visited Brazil recently, Moscow, India, China and I think Australia is a great prospect. So the first thing for us to do is to know more about Australia."

Starting in July, Air Mauritius, which has 16-tonne freight uplifts on its Airbus A340 E, will introduce a third weekly flight to cater for the growth of perishable food exports to Mauritius, particularly of milk and meats.

Air Mauritius currently exports about 4,300 kilograms of chilled meat to the Middle East every week.

Beyond that, the region is exploring new markets in Europe and the UK, with WA's perishable products departing from Perth on a Wednesday and Saturday, and arriving in London and Paris, via Mauritius, on the same days.

According to Greg Wren, Australian agent for the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, the delegation will help promote further trade opportunities between WA and Mauritius, which he says is an exciting prospect.

"We have 15 businesses coming from Mauritius and together with the 10 partners in Australia, this will be a significant occasion for business development," he said.

According to Air Mauritius WA state manager, Andrew Gill, a major misconception with WA businesses and travellers was the perceived distance of Mauritius from Perth.

He said the flight to Mauritius was only six hours from WA, which made the exporting of milk, meat and textiles a viable trade.

Passenger arrivals from Australia are up 60 per cent in the past four years, and while Air Mauritius has more than trebled the number of direct flight seats from Australia to the tropical region, the Mauritian government is keen to establish similar numbers for its imports of goods from WA.

"We are much more attentive to the prospects of Australia than we were before," Mr Duval said.

"And we will be putting more and more into the market to increase our visibility.

"We're trying to make a business case where with increased flights we can import more foodstuffs from Perth.

"Australia being so close to Mauritius, there is substantial trade opportunities, especially I must say, in foodstuffs, perishables."

Mr Duval said the reliance on Mauritius importing WA produce was never more apparent than when Australia's most recent drought put strain on produce supplies.

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