Raigam Wayamba Salterns, a subsidiary of the Raigam Group, began commercial production of its Pure Vacuum Dried (PVD) salt plant in Palavi in Puttalam recently where it would be producing 100 % impurities-free salt, Raigam Chairman Dr. Ravi Liyanage said.
"We already had orders placed even before starting production and these are adequate enough to run the plant with significant gains," Dr. Liyanage told the Business Times. He explained that this PVD process has an embedded vacuum evaporation technology which ensure that salt is 100 % free from any impurities and quality is consistent despite any condition of input raw salt. The input salt is fed in a form of a dissolved slug which is put to different high – tech processes like milling, centrifuging, evaporating, drying, etc under extreme temperature conditions to bring out a final output of ‘pure’ salt, Dr Liyanage explained further.
Demand for pure salt
Featured quality consistency and characteristics of PVD salt which differentiates it from any other salt has a significant demand not only in Sri Lanka but in world context as well. Dr Liyanage pointed out that the country's industrial requirement of pure salt is about 100 Metric Tonnes (MT) a month. "At present all of this is mainly imported from Thailand. This salt is used in the food and beverage industry as well as the leisure (hotels) industry," he said.
He added that this state of art modern plant has a production capacity of 0.5 MT per hour and also has the capacity for continuous for all 365 days of the year. The company has invested more than Rs. 50 million for the plant so far, which has generated 30 new employment opportunities. Dr Liyanage said that Raigam intends to offer the product to the export market provided the local demand is first fulfilled.
Raigam group has three companies for salt business - Raigam Wayamba Salterns PLC (at Palavi in Puttalam), Southern Salt Company (Pvt) Ltd (at Bata-atha in Tangalle), and Raigam Eastern Salt Company (Pvt) Ltd (at Kuchchaveli in Trincomalee). Additionally, Raigam is the main private party shareholder of Puttalam Salt Ltd and Raigam Wayamba Salterns PLC.
Dr Liyanage noted that now the country’s imported salt requirement has reduced to 20,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) per annum from the earlier 45,000 MT owing to the local salt production drive by firms such as Raigam and that imports could be brought down to 10,000 MT this year.
“During the past two years, the total imports have reduced to 20,000 MT from the more than 45,000 MT which was one third of the national requirement in 2007,” he said. Dr. Liyanage said the salt industry has significant potential to develop as the country is surrounded by the sea and the tropical weather is conducive to the production of salt. "But this year the weather was not all that good for salt harvesting,” he added, explaining that salt production is sensitive towards the weather conditions and that any unfavourable weather conditions will affect the production of the company in inverse manner.
Raigam’s future moves
He said that Raigam will be moving into eco tourism at their saltern operations, which will be a new experience to both local and foreign tourists. Dr. Liyanage added that for Raigam's eco-tourism project, the planned capital investment is Rs. 200 million. “This will be branded as the ‘Salt Experience’ and this is the world’s second resort hotel chain which will be adjoining a saltern,” he said. The first chain is in Thailand. “The envisaged tourist operation does not have any disturbance to the salt operation and it is a value addition to the saltern,” Dr. Liyanage said, adding that the company is currently in the process of obtaining relevant approvals from affiliated authorities.
For developing salterns and setting up new factories, the company has planned an investment of Rs. 300 million.