With one of the country’s top export revenue earners accounting for over one percent of the total remaining closed for four months, Hayleys Chairman Mohan Pandithage last week sounded a warning that if this hugely expensive drag on their business continued, they would have to consider other options including moving to an overseas location.
Dr. Mahesha Ranasoma, Managing Director of Dipped Products PLC told a Colombo news briefing on Tuesday that their customers were compelled to seek supplies from competitors like Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Thailand.
``Dipped Products’ global market built with great effort over 36 years is declining by the day,’’ he said. ``Many of our customers stood by us for as long as they could due to the relationships we had established. With the problem unresolved, we had to even refer them to some of our competitors.’’
Pandithage said he had sought urgent meeting with Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and President Mahinda Rajapaksa to discuss the issue which had grave consequences nationally.
``The buildings are available in Malaysia and all we have to do is to load our machinery into containers, ship them to that country, install the plant and plug on,’’ he said. ``But I am a nationalist. I don’t want to do that except as a last resort.’’
The consequences of the prolonged closure included the country losing foreign exchange of Rs. 300 million per month with losses up to now topping Rs. 1 billion, Ranasoma said. He added that this loss will grow exponentially as many orders are consolidated with other factories.
Sri Lanka was meanwhile losing its competitiveness as an investment destination with investors seeing what is happening to existing investment. Competitors in the region benefit from SL’s ``incapability to solve a problem that does not even have a proper basis,’’ DPL said.
About 25,000 people, from rubber growers and tappers, suppliers of various goods and services needed at the factory across the supply and value chain are suffering silently from the closure.
Three government agencies, the Central Environment Authority and the Water Board have reported that ``low pH (acidity) in neighborhood wells cannot be due to factory effluent.’’ (Govt. Analyst)
``It is not possible to establish that treated effluent of the factory has influenced low pH in wells’’ (CEA) and ``there is no clear evidence to show that the low pH of the area is due to factory effluent’’ (Water Board).
All DPL’s efforts to get the various concerned government institutions like the BOI, Water Board, Health Ministry and GA, Gampaha, to issue statements and help convince the villagers had been of no avail.
The company had attempted to engage the villagers directly to clear their misconception. DPL says this had been an uphill task in the absence of complementary support from the relevant government institutions.
They had even offered to truck in the water required for production until an industrial connection is obtained and take away the used supply for disposal in the BOI’s Export Processing Zone at Biyagama. But this proposal has been rejected.
Ironically, the EPF is the second biggest shareholder of DPL having increased its stake from 12.6 to 13.1 percent last year.