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More sugar production will save over Rs. 17 b forex annually

The annual requirement of sugar in the country is around 500,000 mt but only about 60,000 mt are produced locally. The balance has to be imported. The foreign exchange spent to import sugar is around Rs. 12 billion.

A number of by-products from sugarcane to the value of around Rs. 5 billion is also imported annually, Chairman, Sugarcane Research Institute Dr. C. S. by developing the local sugar industry the country will save foreign exchange up to around Rs. 17 billion or even more annually. It will also increase employment opportunities leading to socio-economic development in the country, he said.

During the last few months sugar prices in the world market have increased sharply from around 300 US$ per mt to 450 US$ per mt. The world sugar supply has decreased since sugarcane is used mostly to manufacture alcohol than sugar.

With the increasing demand for alcohol as a fuel additive, it is likely that the prices of sugar will continue to increase from the present price of around Rs. 60 per kg in the local retail market, Dr. Weeraratna said. Sugar is one of the main food items consumed in Sri Lanka.

The per capita consumption of sugar in Sri Lanka is around 30 kg which is high compared to the average sugar consumption in the world. About two decades ago, sugar was cultivated in about 25,000 hectares. The total production of sugar at that time was around 114,000 mt annually representing nearly 20 percent of the total requirement.

The Kantale and Hingurana sugarcane plantations were closed due to various reasons and at present only the Pelawatta and Sevanagala sugar factories function. The total extent of sugarcane cultivated by smallholders to produce jaggery and sugar syrup is approximately 15,000 hectares of which 4,000 hectares are in Sevanagala, 9,000 hectares in Pelawatta and 2,000 hectares in the Ampara and Badulla districts.

The cultivation of sugar will not only increase local sugar production but also ethanol. The cultivation of 100 hectares of sugarcane would increase local sugar production by around 800 tons and alcohol by 100,000 litres of ethanol, he said.

A large extent of land suitable for sugar cultivation is found in Badulla, Moneragala, Galle, Kurunegala and the Hambanthota districts.



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