Government going ahead with controversial sugar plantation
A detailed feasibility study is now underway on the Uva- Wellassa sugar plantation project amidst allegations by the JVP against the government for handing over of 62,500 acres of fertile land in the area to a British company, apparently Booker Tate.
The local promoters of the project have denied claims that land being given to a British company, it didn’t want to name, but said the company is providing technical know-how and other support.
Annual production now is 56,000 tonnes and comes from Sevanagala and Pelwatte with the balance of a total demand of 600,000 tonnes being imported at a cost of Rs 23.4 billion rupees.
According to the report on the new project, no land will be given to the British company as the sugarcane development project is based on small holder sugarcane production in the Uva-Wellassa area. It was planned by an expert team of scientists and professionals who have long years of experience in the sugar industry both here and abroad.
The Bibile-Medagama areas have been identified as one of the key potential areas for sugar development in the sugar sector development policy published by the government in 2005. The current estimates for the project are approximately US$150 million. Accurate estimates would be made at the completion of the feasibility study planned towards the end of the year.
According to the Board of Directors of Bibile Sugar Industries Ltd - Jinawara Dharmawardhana, C.W. Jayasekera and the Consultants and Senior Advisors to the Board of BSIL including Dr. Nande Dharmawardene, Ranel Wijesinha and Douglas Ladduwahetty, they invited the British company to strengthen and supplement the available local sugar industry related and project development and financing expertise.
That company will also provide significant inputs in agronomic feasibility assessment of land, adoption of best practices in cultivation, sugarcane conversion, related research, knowledge and experience in bio fuels, co-generation of electricity, up to date technical know on sugar factory designing, commissioning and operation. Furthermore there isn’t a single local company that has built a commercial sugar mill complex by themselves, they said. The project aims to produce not only sugar but also a variety of other products through value addition to sugar by products.
The main product will be 100,000 tonnes of mill white sugar. Value added products will be 100,000 MW of electricity, 10 million litres of fuel ethanol per year as well as animal feed and fibre boards. This is an integrated rural development project that alleviates poverty and creates income in one of the poorest areas in the country, the consultants said.
The envisaged project area, falls under the intermediate and dry zone forest category which already has well over 2000 hectares of strict natural forest reserves. This will at all times remain undisturbed. Hence there will be no impact on the bio-diversity of the area, they said. Denying JVP allegations that the company has requested 3000 hectares of land from Nilgala forest reserves, they said at no stage they have requested such lands and this allegation was made perhaps due to misinformation or an attempt by detractors to discredit the project.
Minister of Investment Promotion and Enterprise Development Dr. Sarath Amunugama speaking about reactivating the Hingurana Sugar Industries company said it will generate over 800 direct employment opportunities and provide support indirectly for over 4,000 families. The minister added that this venture would involve an investment of Rs. 1.3 billion under a public-private partnership.