(1 November 1933 – 20 February 2023)
Mr. Michel Hoarau, a leading personality of sugarcane research and development in Réunion Island, passed away on 20 February 2023.
A graduate of the Institut National Agronomique of Paris (INA) and Ecole Supérieure d’Application d’Agriculture Tropicale (ESAAT) in 1957, Michel was employed by the State Agricultural Services as Deputy Director of the Centre Technique Inter professionnel de la Canne et du Sucre (CTICS) of Reunion where he spent several years before returning to France to specialize in plant pathology at the Office de la recherche scientifique et technique outre-mer (ORSTOM). In 1962, when the Institut de recherches agronomiques tropicales et des cultures vivrières (IRAT) was created in La Réunion, he was recruited as a plant pathologist. He worked on the epidemiology and control of various diseases of cane (gumming, leaf scald, ratoon stunning disease, chlorotic streak) in collaboration with the Station Génétique de la Bretagne. Michel, a multi-faceted engineer, designed the method known as hydraulic press analysis for determining the sugar content of cane. This method of determining the quality of the cane, designed to support the research work of IRAT (general agronomy, phytopathology), is still in use today in many cane supply chains (payment for cane based on sucrose content, agronomic evaluation and analysis of juice extraction in factories).
In 1970, Michel took over the management of agricultural production of the Sucreries de Bourbon which were then under the directorship of the illustrious sugar technologist Emile Hugot. He contributed to a plan led by Jean Fritz for the development of the cattle industry on Reunion that valued sugarcane by-products for fodder production. His work led to the creation of a group of cattle producers and an associated structure responsible for a genetic improvement programme. With Emile de La Giroday, Director of Centre d’Essais, de Recherche et de Formation (CERF) now eRcane, Michel was one of the major actors of the Plan de Modernisation de l’Economie Sucrière (PMES 1974-1982) followed by the Plan de Consolidation (PCES 1982-1990). These two successive plans were managed and financially supported by the State and the Conseil Général de la Reunion. Over about 15 years, they undertook strategic actions aimed at removing major obstacles to productivity in the sector, especially land improvement and derocking of the very stony cane fields of Réunion to facilitate the development of mechanization (planting, crop management, harvesting and replanting), and technical support (creation of Société d’Intérêt Collectif Agricole (SICA) Cannes) to thousands of new producers benefiting from the vast land reform implemented by the Sociétés d’aménagement foncier et d’établissement rural (SAFER). Following a request from public authorities and with their support, Michel founded the Société Financière pour le Développement de La Réunion (SOFIDER) in 1978. A tireless and wise builder of the economic development of his native island, never counting his working hours, Michel acted as president of this public investment bank on a voluntary basis until 1985, in addition to his other professional responsibilities.
In 1979 Michel returned to agronomic research as Director of IRAT-Réunion. He was also the local representative of the Groupement d’études et de recherches pour le développement de l’agronomie tropicale (GERDAT) in Réunion, whose objective was to develop the human resources and structures of agronomic research to constitute the future Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD) together with Alain Derevier who was responsible of Centre d’Etudes et d’Expérimentation du Machinisme Agricole (Ceemat) Réunion. In September 1983, Michel was appointed the Director General of IRAT in France, responsible for French overseas territories and in African countries. In four years (1980-1984), the staff of IRAT and Ceemat tripled in Reunion and the research infrastructures (laboratories, offices) of CIRAD in La Bretagne and Saint Pierre were increased twofold. Between 1987 and 1990, Michel was Deputy Director of the IRAT Department of Cirad, then headed by Claude Charreau, and he was also responsible for the food crops sub-directorate (rice, maize, sugar cane, sorghum, vegetable crops). In 1991, he returned to Reunion. He was Director of CERF, Director of CIRAD Réunion between 1992 and 1993 and founded with Michel Colonna the Centre Français de la canne et du sucre (CFCS) which combined agricultural producers, agronomic research and industry.
Michel retired at the end of 1994. He spent his time in the town of Plessis Treviso where he had established his main residence for about ten years. He devoted time to various associations in the Val-de-Marne department. On many occasions he replied favourably to various requests from the cane industry in Réunion such as publication of a book on the history of its rum industry, the organization of an international colloquium, etc. He took time with his wife to travel to and discover various locations. He was very caring to his family and relatives.
Michel Hoarau died aged 90 years. He is survived by his wife Marie-Claire and they had three children, 10 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.
Michel will be remembered as being a great servant of IRAT then CIRAD, owing to his high level of commitment in all his professional assignments and his dedication especially to his various teams, mainly in Réunion where he was one of the pioneers of the agricultural development in collaboration with multiple partners locally and in the region.
In recognition of his distinguished services, he was made Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite in 1990 by the French Government.
Elisabeth Claverie de Saint-Martin
On behalf of ISSCT Council and Executive Committee and all the Members, we convey to Mrs Marie-Claire Hoarau and her family our deepest sympathy.