At Sevanagala, Pelwatte:
Better management ensures growth in sugarcane industry
Sugarcane ready for crushing
“The sugarcane industry has achieved a remarkable progress during the
last six months under the new management of Sevanagala and Pelwatta
sugar factories”, Productivity Promotion Minister Lakshman Seneviratna
Both the companies were taken over by the government last year under
the Parliamentary Act on ‘revival of underperforming Enterprises and
The ‘Sunday Observer’ interviewed Minister Lakshman Seniviratna, last
Question: There was a breakdown in operations at the said
sugar factories during the transition period from the private sector to
the public sector. How did you manage to overcome the difficulties and
improve the production within a span of five months?.
A: It was really a challenge to us. Some machine parts had to
be replaced as the originals were found missing. The majority of the
employees and the sugarcane cultivators were also not happy with the
previous owners. After a series of discussions we could persuade the
workforce to commit themselves to their jobs in the larger interest of
the country. My ministry conducted a number of workshops and
Minister Lakshman Seneviratna
After motivating them all the workers, Chief Operating Officers,
General Managers and Superintendents did their utmost to improve the
overall setup of the factories to bring it to the current position.
Q: What was the reason for the lack of cooperation between the
previous management and the workforce and sugar cultivators?
A: The staffers’ salaries and due payments of sugarcane
suppliers were not paid on time by the previous management. The
cultivators who are ordinary farmers were anxious to have their dues
paid without delay. They do not undergo such difficulties under the new
Q: Do you think the local sugarcane industry has a better
A: India, Thailand, Malaysia have developed the native
sugarcane industry. Although our own sugarcane industry was far more
developed in the 80s, the privatisation program introduced by the then
government in 1992 resulted in the total ruins of the industry.
The Hingurana and Kantale factories cannot be revived. The industry
could be developed only by revamping Pelwatta and Sevanagala factories.
Sugarcane harvesting ceremony at Sevanagala
Initial stages of sugar crushing
Sri Lanka has the necessary climate and geographical conditions
conducive to sugar cultivation. The Hingurana, Kantale, Sevanagala and
Pelwatte factories were operational until their privatisation in 1992.
According to the ‘Mahinda Chintana’ 40 percent of the country’s sugar
requirement should be produced locally on or before 2020. This shows the
government’s keenness to develop the sugar industry.
Q: Sugarcane cultivation was one of the main livelihoods of
those in the Moneragala district. With Hingurana, Kantale, Sevanagala
and Pelwatte factories becoming non-operational the sugarcane
cultivators were forced to switch over to other crops. What is the
A: Two decades ago 25,000 ha in the Dry Zone were cultivated
with sugarcane; with Kantale 3840 ha, Hingurana 5660 ha, Pelwatta 4500
ha and Sevenagala 4680 ha.
Sugercane cultivation in the Dry Zone has dropped to less than 1000
ha mainly due to the unwise policies of private sugar factory owners’
the sugarcane cultivators disclosed the benefits enjoyed under the State
management had been denied to the cultivators by the previous factory
They alleged that they were provided with inferior quality
fertilizer. The agriculture loans were also given on higher interest
rates by the factory owners. Now the situation is different. The lot of
cultivators has since been improved.Around 60 percent of the former
sugarcane cultivators have since resumed sugarcane cultivation.
Q: Is there a corporate plan to improve the sugar industry?
A: The country’s sugar requirement per annum is about 600000
mt which Rs. 6 billion to the state coffers. On the otherhand world
sugar prices are also on the increase and this has necessitated the
development of the industry.
Both Sevanagala and Pelwatta factories had cultivated sugarcane in an
area of 7372 ha and 31000 mt of sugar in 2010. Meanwhile, the
cultivation area, quantity of cane crushed by sugar companies and sugar
production in Sri Lanka dropped by 13%, 36% and 41% respectively between
2004 – 2010. The retail price of a kilogram of sugar also increased from
Rs. 60 to Rs. 115 in the last 4 years.
According to the Corporate Plan prepared by the authorities the
successful revamping programe of Pelwatta and Sevanagala sugar factories
will help to improve the production.
The Corporate Plan has projected a production of 10 percent of the
local sugar requirement within next 3 years. Manufacturing and promoting
the use of compost fertilizer and developing renewable energy are the
other areas of the corporate plan.