The defunct Thickkam Distilleries in Jaffna, a valuable state asset laid to rest for several decades, is being refurbished and revived with modern technology and would be opened in February next year.
Thickkam Distilleries was established in 1984 and due to the 30-year-old conflict Thickkam distilleries gradually withered and was shut down and no sincere efforts were made by successive governments to revive this, thus depriving the Palmyrah tapping community a much-needed livelihood.
However, the modernization and reactivation of the Thickkam distilleries which was a long-felt need of the Palm Development Cooperative Societies is done under the supervision of subject Ministers Dr Ramesh Pathirana and Arundika Fernando and now it is in its final stages,” said Chairman Palmyrah Development Board Krishantha Pathiraja.
He said that the revival is done with the collaboration of the private sector as well as several Palm Producer Cooperative Socialites and the total investment would be around Rs. 250 million mainly used to install modern machinery.
Palmyrah Research Institute Deputy General Manager
“This factory hopes to convert palmyrah SAP into vinegar, surgical spirit, arrack, wine and later ethanol for local consumption and export.”
He said that the Thickkam Distilleries in Jaffna would also be a game-changer in many ways. “Firstly it will help to create around 250 new tappers to work on around two million untapped palmyrah trees to supply palmyrah toddy to the distillery thus increasing their income-earning opportunities and significantly contributing to their livelihood development.”
Secondly, it will ensure a free flow of raw material to the distillery helping to gradually increase production and with exports generating FOREX to the country. Ethanol production will also help to save ethanol import expenditure.
“The opening of the distillery will give the Palmyrah Development Board a new avenue of income generation thus helping the institution to move away from the dependency of the Government Treasury and be a profit-making venture. This would be a historic landmark. He also said that the government also removed the 50% tax imposed by the previous regime.
Deputy General Manager Cum Manager (Applied Research & Quality Control), Palmyrah Research Institute, Chavakachcheri, S. Srivijeindran, said that their Chairman Krishantha Pathiraja has also taken several new initiatives towards the welfare of the toddy tapping community which has earned high praise for them. “For the first time, these tappers would be given an NVQ level certificate and a new service type identity card which will help to elevate their social standing in society.”
Also for the first item in history this underprivileged community with a high incidence of poverty, will be offered an insurance scheme.