Mauritius has a special zone for export production that plays an important role for industry. The factories in the zone are owned by foreign companies and import goods which are then processed and exported. Production mainly consists of clothing and textiles.
The industrial sector in Mauritius first began to grow in the 1970s, when the government established the Export Processing Zone (EPZ). Before that, sugar cultivation had dominated the economy. Foreign investors were invited to EPZ, which was attracted with tax relief and other benefits.
Today, the EPZ factories are owned by companies from China, India and Sri Lanka, among others. In addition to the manufacture of clothing and textiles, much fish is processed within the zone. Diamond grinding and the production of electronics are also important industries. Most of the production is exported to the USA and the EU.
The export-producing zone grew until 2001. At that time, the number of employees was about 91,000, the vast majority of women. Increased competition from low-wage countries in Africa and Asia in the early 2000s led to many factories being closed. The abolition of textile quotas in 2005 also reduced clothing production in Mauritius and hit EPZ hard. A restructuring of the textile industry was carried out to make it more competitive, and the sector gradually recovered from 2006. At the same time, the processing industry of fish in the zone increased, which compensated for part of the textile industry’s slowdown. The number of employees at EPZ is now around 80,000.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Mauritius. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
An important industry outside of EPZ is food processing, especially sugar production. The EU provides financial support for a restructuring of the sugar industry on the island.
The manufacturing industry has expanded since the 1980s and today accounts for most of the export revenue. The goods are mainly clothing and textiles from companies in the Free Trade Zone (EPZ), which account for about half the export value.
Sugar, which has long been Mauritius’ most important export commodity, has lost significance. An important reason is that the EU has lowered the price of sugar (see Agriculture and Fisheries). The export goods are mainly sold to EU countries and the US.
The factories in the EPZ zone also account for a large part of imports, as they process fabrics and other import goods. Oil is another important import commodity. Machines, transport equipment and food are also purchased from abroad.
The large import need means that Mauritius is drawn with a deficit in foreign trade. The deficits are mainly due to high fuel and food prices.
Thanks to a bilateral trade agreement of 2006, India has become Mauritius’ most important importing country. Imports from China have also increased substantially and China is now the second largest importing country. In 2008, Chinese companies initiated the construction of an economic and trade cooperation zone in Mauritius with room for 40 Chinese companies and 17,000 Chinese workers. The zone was expected to be ready in 2016.
FACTS – FOREIGN TRADE
US $ 2,372 million (2018)
US $ 5,387 million (2018)
– US $ 815 million (2018)
Commodity trade’s share of GDP
57 percent (2018)
Main export goods
various industrial products, especially textiles and clothing, sugar, flowers and fish
Largest trading partner
EU, South Africa, India, China, USA
Pleasant climate, beautiful beaches and coral reefs attract visitors to Mauritius. Tourism has become one of the country’s most important industries and one of the main sources of foreign currency. The tourism industry also employs tens of thousands of people.
The number of tourists has increased from just over 27,000 visitors in 1970 to a record level of just over 993,000 in 2013, an increase of almost 3 percent compared to 2012. But the increasing tourist flow not only generates income, but also leads to an increased need for imports and damage to the environment. The government has decided that the continued expansion in the tourism industry should be regulated, and few new large hotels have been built since 1990.
In 2013, about a quarter of foreign tourists came from France, just under a sixth from the French territory of Réunion and a tenth from the UK. Other large groups are South Africa, Germany and India. The tourist stream from China is increasing.
FACTS – TOURISM
Number of foreign visitors per year
1 275 000 (2016)
1824 000 000 US dollars (2016)
The share of tourist income from exports
34.9 percent (2016)