Europe helping Mayotte to reduce its high cost of living

The Macodis cooperative allows famers, artisans and traders to grow their businesses. [Natacha Guégo Haas]

Mayotte, one of the EU’s least developed regions, lies in the middle of the Indian Ocean. EU cohesion policy supports the French department by encouraging local production and trade. EURACTIV France reports.

In Mayotte, a 20kg bag of high-quality organic rice costs €27. In order to eradicate poverty there, cohesion policy is going straight to the point, targeting basic necessities, such as rice, which forms the basis of the local diet. Mayotte has been France’s 101st department since 2014 and 84% of its population lives below the poverty line.

Until now, the two major retailers were offering low-quality rice, which was sold at over €30 per 20kg bag. By establishing its own import chain from Cambodia under its own brand, a new cooperative is offering high-quality organic rice for €27.

A project to eradicate poverty

“In 2016, I found a dramatic situation. The two major retailers were abusing their ultra-dominant position to impoverish the supply and to sell exclusively imported products at exorbitant prices,” said Christophe Girardier, who was assigned by the prefecture to conduct a study into the reasons for the expensive food supply.

In 2017, the entrepreneur launched a cooperative, Macodis, together with 13 small traders. The cooperative established its own import chain and devised a new “ecosystem”, involving farmers, artisans and local traders, who maintain their independence.

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European funds to develop a local ecosystem

The state-funded project has just finished its first year of operation with a turnover of €1.5 million (and a resultant turnover of €6.5 million for its trading partners). In order to expand, the project is now making use of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Submitting a €2 million project, Macodis wants to integrate more traders into the cooperative and triple its turnover. The project plans to establish a chain for locally processed products (such as fruit juices and jams) and turn down new importing operations (for instance, oil, flour, sugar).

Overall, 88 projects in Mayotte receive cohesion funds, amounting to more than €200 million.

Mayotte as an example

Most of the EU’s outermost regions face a problem of high costs of living. The Macodis model could be transposed while taking each territory’s specific geographic and cultural characteristics into account.

“Ask not what Europe can do for you, ask what you can do for Europe”. By paraphrasing J.F. Kennedy, Girardier tried to explain to the project’s participants that Mayotte has to become an example for the other outermost regions and also in Africa.

Being both a European and an African territory, Mayotte needs to become the project laboratory for a new vision of cooperation between Europe and Africa.

The EU in your region: Where does cohesion money go?

Cohesion Policy represents one-third of the current EU’s budget and is the main investment policy of the Union. As the negotiations on the next Multiannual Financial Framework are about to kick off, we had a look at how funds are distributed across different regions in Europe and what kind of projects are funded with them.

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