Birth of a plantation

  • First concessions

    In 1765, the first land concessions in the area covering 2,200 acres were given to Simon Réminiac and Claude la Roche du Ronzet, while the land where the current factory ruins are located were given to Mr. Louis Denis[1]. At the time of this acquisition, the colonial government was struggling with the agricultural development of Mauritius. Land concessions had been given to this effect, however, European settlers were more likely to try to acquire wealth through speculation and commerce, while the agricultural developments barely supplied the local inhabitants and people (military, sailors) in transit. [2]


    [1] Yvan Martial, Compagnie Sucrière de Bel Ombre, Notes Historiques

    [2] Megan Vaughan, Creating the Creole Island

From quasi-empty concessions to sugar production

The early activities of Bel Ombre are reflected in this.  In his passage through Bel Ombre in 1782 Nicolas Céré – botanist and friend of Pierre Poivre – described Bel Ombre as being important to the colony in supplying wood and boats. The area was administered by Mr. Estienne Bolgerd from 1768 until 1790 and is mentioned by both Mr. Céré and Bernardin de Saint Pierre.

During this time, it is probable that the focus of agricultural activities in Bel Ombre were not concentrated solely on sugar. At the time, while administrators had encouraged planters to grow cultures for the local food consumption market, many were investing in cotton, coffee, and indigo among others, while sugar cane cultivation was in large part, destined to the production of arrack to be sold to passing ships. Towards the end of the 18th century, sugar production became more prominent throughout the island, and this is reflected in the activities of Bel Ombre.

The first sugar factory of the area was constructed in 1802 and is one of the first three factories/plantations in Mauritius, along with Beau Plan and Flacq to be established during the French period. It is to be noted that during this period, Bel Ombre was described as being in a relatively dire state, with only the house of the administrator in good shape, while the factory building was not properly maintained, the plantation works poorly planned and the crops emaciated.


Stumbling or building blocks?

However, this lack of development does not predict the future of the Bel Ombre sugar estate, but merely reflects any project or development in its infancy. The historic and economic conjunctions would soon pave the way for extensive development with much emphasis being laid on sugar production, without neglect of other crops which were of prime importance for food security.

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