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Pelwatte flooding Sri Lanka with milk

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Ariyaseela Wickramanayake Chairman Pelwatte Dairy Industries Ltd.

Ariyaseela Wickramanayake
Pelwatte Dairy Industries Ltd.

This event takes place in the early seventies. A student who has qualified to enter the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Peradeniya decides to become a diver of the Colombo Port Commission without entering the university.

Determined to do what he likes, he is a unique character who willingly accepts challenges in the style that others complain about.

Ariyaseela Wickramanayake, that wonderful young man, was an excellent son of Sri Lanka who was able to practically do many things that were thought impossible for Sri Lankans until then.

Proceeding with to that vision, he established MASTERS DIVERS, the first diving and navigation service provider established by a Sri Lankan, and became a service provider with the most efficient performance of maritime affairs in Colombo. Because of this, Colombo Port has achieved global fame as an efficient port on the Silk Road.

But, he did not stop his endeavours for the betterment of Sri Lanka with that.

‘Ganna Ape De’

The proposal to establish a port in Hambantota is fundamental among the proposals made by him in anticipation of the development of the country.

Wickramanayake, who is responsible for building a national policy as well as the ideological background necessary for building the local economy, is unique in his work at the Maubima Lanka Foundation with the theme of ‘Ganna Ape De’ (Buy our own products).

Following the policy of restricting imports and developing exports, he bought the Pelawatta sugar factory which was closed due to loss and made it profitable and gave proper value to a national resource that was decaying.

He brought the themes “Stop consuming imported wheat flour” and “Consume our own food” to the fore. Not only that, he is constantly committed to realizing them through action.

Wickremanayake has always stated that promotion of domestic milk industry instead of foreign milk consumption is a national responsibility. He did not stop saying that and took the lead for it.

He said that milk can be produced with a fresher taste and higher quality than milk imported from abroad, and he succeeded in proving it by establishing Pelwatte Dairy Factories.

Wickramanayake recalls this as follows: “As a way to further strengthen the nutrition and economy of the farmers who were supplying sugarcane to Pelwatte Sugar Factory, it was arranged to present them with milk cows every year. I got the opportunity to shoulder that task, but fortunately, it was because of a newspaper article that I read that the basic foundation was laid for it.

“In that article, it was mentioned that a Buddhist monk releases about 400 dairy cows destined to be butchered a year as charity, but it has become a difficult task to find suitable farmers to take care of the cows that are released. I went to find him. When I went, he was receiving treatment in a hospital. I asked him whether he could give these liberated cows to the farmers who supply sugarcane to our Pelwatte Sugar Company, the lives of the cows will be secured and the economy of the farmers will also be uplifted.

He was happy with that proposal. He put his hand on my head and said, “I have been looking for it and I have found it”. It benefited the families of sugarcane farmers as well as their economies. Their lifestyle and nutrition level were both uplifted.

We have constantly looked into things like building sheds for the protection of those cows and providing them with veterinary facilities.After some time milk production in the area increased, but the Milco Company bought only a limited quantity of milk from the farmers.The farmers did not get the right price for their milk. Finding a solution for this became my task.

I started a yogurt industry by giving jobs to several graduates of Rehung University.Only after that, in 2006, I started a factory with a capacity for 20,000 liters of milk. Local investment was necessary to balance the milk market for decades.The best proof of this is the increase in farmers’ income. Now the dairy farmers of this country have become a group of people who earn a good income on a daily basis. The reason for this is that they get a good price for their milk and a smart system has been set up to sell all the milk they produce easily.

Even when we established the factory, the country’s milk production was increasing at a significant level. The reason is that the amount of 27 rupees per liter of milk was raised to 40 rupees per liter in the year 2005.The amount paid for milk a liter of milk became 50 rupees in 2010 due to the realization of an election promise. Accordingly, the production of milk also increased. The reason for this was the increase in the interest and commitment of farmers in the dairy industry. Milk prices were raised again with the 2015 elections. Accordingly, the price of a litre of milk became 75 rupees. When checking the data on the production of milk in the country, it was realized that every time the price is increased, the production capacity also increased.

Nowadays, the consumption of liquid milk has also increased to a significant level. Currently, the government (Livestock Resources Board) is paying 260 rupees per litre of milk.

Due to the increase in milk production, the 20,000 litre factory became insufficient to handle the increase in the supply of milk. I had to start another factory. Accordingly, I brought machines with the latest technology from Denmark to make liquid milk and started a factory that can produce 80,000 litres of milk per day.The need to build another factory arose due to the demand in the market for Pelwatte milk as well as the surplus of milk production. Currently, three factories are producing 250,000 litres of milk daily.

Milk and milk products such as butter, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and liquid milk are produced in those factories.

We are very proud to say that we have now increased the milk production to meet the demand in Sri Lanka.It is a victory for us as a local industry.It is special that every drop of milk provided is fresh milk collected from the dairies of our own country. Due to Pelwatte milk, the development of the dairy industry in this country is very high.

It is estimated that 5,000 million rupees is distributed in the dairy industry per month. According to the available data, there are around 13 lakhs of dairy farmers scattered across the country.

The milk produced by all these people is not included in that amount. 5,000 million rupees is only for the amount of milk supplied to major industrial establishments.

Fourth factory

My hope is to collect at least part of the milk that is not reaching our factories and develop the export trade. Accordingly, we are planning to build our fourth factory in Kurunegala. After that, we hope to build the fifth factory in Kantale or Jaffna.

Measures are being planned to increase the export of dairy foods such as butter and cheese. Butter is already being exported. Being able to build this industry to the level where milk is no longer needed to be imported is a great achievement for Sri Lanka as a country.

Therefore, it has been possible to save about 400 million dollars in foreign exchange that was spent annually on milk imports. Due to this industry, 1,000 people are directly employed and a large number of people are indirectly employed.

Agriculture is the basic way to develop our country. We have the knowledge and experience we have gained over thousands of years. Importing crops such as potato, onion, turmeric and ginger from abroad is an injustice to the farmer.Farmers stay away from agriculture for these reasons. Only when there are policy decisions such sectors can be developed.

Concessions for bread should be restricted and priority should be given to consuming rice. It is difficult to develop a country without policies. Justice to paddy cultivators can only be provided by giving a good price for a kilo of paddy.Only a leader who can make such decisions can build a strong future for the country and its people.


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