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Sunday, 8 February 2009

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Accelerating sugarcane cultivation

Pelwatte Sugar Distilleries (Pvt), a subsidiary of Pelwatte Sugar Industries PLC will increase the cultivation of sugarcane up to 20,000 hectares which will help meet 25 per cent of the country's requirement of sugar, said Chairman, Pelwatte Sugar Distilleries (Pvt), Ariyaseela Wickramanayake.

The company began operations in 1997 to manufacture ethyl alcohol and bio-compost from molasses which is a by product of the sugar manufacturing process.

"Our aim is to save the much needed foreign exchange on import of fuel and provide employment by producing ethyl (ethanol) an alternative to petroleum.Many countries have reduced their fuel bills by producing ethanol, a clean and renewable energy", Wickramanayake said.

Pelwatte Sugar produces around 3,000 litres of ethanol a day and it has the potential to increase the production to around 30,000 litres a day. The company cultivates around 25,000 acres employing 10,000 workers from the area.

Sugar is one of the main food items in Sri Lanka with per capita consumption of 40kg which is within the high range among the world consumption. Sugarcane is cultivated largely in Kantale, Hingurana, Pelwatte, Moneragala and Sevanagala districts.

The sugar production in Sri Lanka is 56,000 MT which is 10 per cent of the country's requirement and the annual consumption of sugar is around 550,000 MT. Around 500,000 MT of sugar is imported annually at a cost of Rs. 20 billion.

Wickramanayake said the Government has taken steps to accelerate sugarcane cultivation while trying to save billions of rupees in terms of the country's fuel bill.

The Sugarcane Research Institute launched a project to cultivate sugarcane in Badulla, Ampara districts and over 40,000 hectares of land have been identified in the Annuradhapura district to cultivate sugarcane.

"A sugarcane farmer could earn Rs. 25,000 per acre and also help promote production of ethanol, bagasse which is a by product of sugarcane that could be used to generate electricity and manufacture organic fertiliser", he said.

The company's sugar production dropped last year due to the woolly Aphid' infestation pest which increased the cost of preventive measures. The rise in the cost of fuel and fertiliser resulted in the increase in production cost.

Sugar production in the world spreads across 100 countries of which 78 per cent is produced out of sugarcane. It is primarily grown in the tropical and sub tropical regions of the Southern hemisphere.

The rest is produced out of beet grown in temperature zones of the Northern hemisphere.

The cost of producing sugar from sugarcane is lower than using beet.Around 68 per cent of the production is consumed by the country of origin and rest is traded in the world markets.The International Sugar Organisation (ISO) predicted a sugar surplus of 11.1 million MT for 2007/08 and a future growth of 2.4 per cent.

Brazil which cultivates over 10mn hectares is the world's top sugar producer and exporter. It aims to increase the cultivation to 14mn hectares by 2020.Sugarcane is cultivated in the central/south regions of Brazil.

 

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