Work on the Puttalam and Tangalle salterns have been completed and a harvest of 6,000 mt is estimated from both salterns, said Raigam Group Chairman Dr. Ravi Liyanage in an interview with the Sunday Observer Business and Finance
Exerpts of the interview:
Q: What is the current status of the Wayamba and Eastern salterns?
A: Development work of our salterns in Puttalam, and in Tangalle have been completed and we are in the process of harvesting. Although the salterns are not adequately seasoned, the harvest is at a satisfactory level. The total collection is estimated to be around 6,000 mt. Development work of the Eastern saltern is under way. Along with the development work, we will commence harvesting in the developed area of the saltern.
Q: Are they fully operational and to what capacity?
A: Work on the Puttalam and Tangalle salterns have been completed. It takes around two to three years for a saltern to reach to its full operational capacity. Till then production increases gradually each year. The salterns will be at full capacity by 2014.
Development work on the Eastern saltern is under way. It will be completed by the end of this year. Once this is developed it will be the largest single saltern in Sri Lanka, having a production capacity of 50,000 mt. per annum.
Q: How much foreign exchange could be saved by producing salt locally?
A: A few years ago, we observed that importation of salt was around 30-35 percent of the total requirement. With our move to the industry, with value-added salt products to the market, importation dropped drastically. Nevertheless, importation of salt is taking place, specially value-added salt as per customised specifications, which accounts for a significant amount of foreign exchange outflow. However, with the introduction of Pure Vacuum Dried (PVD) salt from our newly installed PVD plant, we hope the importation of salt to Sri Lanka will come to a halt.
The total import of salt in 2007 was 45,000 mt which cost us approximately US $ 5,000,000.
We are very happy to state that imports have slumped to 10 percent (5,000 mt) after Raigam entered the salt industry. With the introduction of value added salt (PVD) we would be able to reduce imports to zero.
Q: What are your plans for expansion?
A: We plan to increase capacities of our salterns in Puttalam and Tangalle by deploying a novel technology through research and development. We are also considering acquisition of lands to develop salterns.
Launching our PVD salt products to the market will also take place in the near future.
We are proud that we have been successful in establishing the only full-fledged PVD plant in the country with an investment of around Rs. 60 million. Importation of value-added salt might further come down with our PVD salt products coming into the market. We are looking at the feasibility of integrating the Eastern saltern to Raigam Wayamba Salterns PLC.
Approximately 27 km from Trincomalee lies the largest single slattern in the island. It is now being developed in Kuchchaveli. 1,805 acres in extent, the proposed saltern is envisaged to produce 50,000 metric tonnes of raw crystal salt annually.
Development work on the saltern is going ahead on schedule and almost Rs. 70 million has been invested on its development. The work is expected to be completed in 2013.
On a short-term basis, arrangements have been made to build shallow salt beds where approximately 3,000 metric tonnes are expected to be harvested. The manufacture of salt is an environmental-friendly industry where no pollutants are released to the air or ground. No energy from the national grid is required for the salt manufacturing process and the raw material required is brine (sea water). The energy needed is obtained from the sun.