A Perfume Making Industry at Anuradhapura and Kandy
Posted on November 29th, 2019

By Garvin Karunaratne

It is an opportune moment to highlight the fact that Sri Lanka can do better by having its own industries, instead of depending on imports. We have to create employment for our youth and also save foreign exchange by making things we import. 

I have many a time, while offering flowers at Ruwanweliseya, felt that the flowers offered can be turned into perfumes.  I have trailed behind lorryloads of flowers in Southern France taking flowers to their distilleries.

I enclose a paper I wrote on a perfume industry for Sri Lanka. I wrote this after I came across a small scale distillery at Corris in Wales. Today it is with great difficulty that we dispose of the flowers at the places of worship in Anuradhapura and Kandy.

This is something that can be done within a month or two,  considering the speed with which I worked as the Government Agent at Matara in establishing the Boatyard at Matara done within three months and the Crayon Factory at Morawaka done in three and a half months- of which it took three months to find the recipe to make crayons.  A Government Agent is a petty official compared to the powers of a Ministry Secretary. If a Ministry Secretary gets going on establishing industries he can be faster than a Government Agent who has little resources and men.

I enclose my Paper on a Perfume Industry in the hope that our leaders in our new Government will have a read of it and will consider a move.

Garvin Karunaratne

Garvin Karunaratne

former G.A. Matara 29/11/2019

Building up Our Industries and Creating Employment-  Perfume Making

By Garvin Karunaratne

On my recent travel to Snowdonia in Wales, I happened to visit the Corris Industrial Unit.  What was most interesting was a Mini Distillery using many ingredients, including an array of spices, turning out special alcoholic drinks

I kept wondering  what I could have done if I had known this mini Distillery equipment when I was the Government Agent at Matara, in 1971,  when we were charged with creating employment for our youth.  Those were the days of the Divisional Development Councils Programme for which Dr N.M.Perera, the Minister for Finance had high hopes of developing employment for the youth.

Once I was traveling in  North India and I was charged with the task of buying some perfumes from Sugandhika in Lucknow. From Lucknow we were due to proceed to Sravasti on pilgrimage and I told our driver to take us to Sugandhika. It was a small sales outlet selling a special variety of perfumes, doted on by Indian damsels. What was most interesting was that the perfumes were all made in India itself. After buying some perfumes, I approached the staff and requested that I may be allowed to see their distillery- where the flowers will be distilled into perfumes. Out came an answer that defied me. Theirs was a mini distillery, portable which was taken to the places where flowers were available and at that time the flowers were not in bloom. India has developed its perfume making industries on a grand scale.

At Corris in Machynlleth,  in Wales, I saw the two mini Distillery machines functioning in one large room. Of course they were not making perfumes which would have required more space. But that distillation equipment could have been utilized to make perfumes. It is called the DYFI Distillery, led by Pete Cameron (dyfidistillery.com- telephone 01654761551.)

I quote from a Report I wrote for the Chief Minister of the Central Province, Hon Mr P.C.Imbulana back in 1993, A Programme for Self Employment Creation & Poverty Alleviation in the Central Province of Sri Lanka”

A Perfume making Industry can only be established in the Central Province  as this is the ideal climate area for planting flowers. In my stay of an year at Nuwara Eliya I got a good income from flowers that grew wild in my garden. After an identification of small scale machinery and a study of its feasibility the plans drawn for local production can also include flowers  to be processed into perfumes. This can be established immediately  with the flowers offered at Dalada Maligawa”( From  How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka and  Alternative programs of Success, (Godages). My Report was accepted by the Chief Minister who immediately commenced implementing it at two Divisional Secretary areas, but the Programme was shelved with the United National Party losing the General Election.

My find of the machinery for a small scale distillery at Corris in Wales is significant and holds a great deal of hope to establish a perfume industry in Sri Lanka. If I had known of this machinery when I was the Government Agent at Matara I would have commenced a perfume making industry based on the flowers offered at the Matara Bodhi . I could  have found employment for easily twenty youths. The plan is extremely feasible and I would urge the Government to take immediate steps to get going with establishing  perfume industries.  in Kandy, with the flowers offered at the Dalada Maligawa (can easily find employment for fifty or more), at Anuradhapura with flowers offered at Sri Maba Bodhiya and Ruwanveliueya-( this can find employment for thirty or more).

Once the perfumes are made the second step will be to encourage people to plant flowers and for a collection arrangement to be made.

On my world wide travel since leaving the Administrative Service in 1973 I have trailed behind lorry loads of sugar cane and manioc  in India and Thailand, lorry loads of flowers in Southern France.  Flowers are collected and transported to perfume making factories. France has developed a massive perfume making industry.

It beats me why we cannot establish a perfume making industry with the flowers offered at various temples. It was just the other day that a Pichha mal ceremony was done at the Sri Maha Bodhiya at Anuradhapura.

Often one hears that people are caught trying to take away Sandlewood and Walapatta from Sri Lanka.

It needs to be emphatically stated that a perfume making industry cannot be established in a piecemeal manner, with a stray perfume-making unit being established. There is an essential infrastructure necessary. Firstly the Government must seriously take steps to curtail the import of perfumes by charging a high tax on all imports but this has to be done after good quality perfumes are made locally. If Sugandhika can establish a perfume industry in Lucknow without a permanent distillery, working on a makeshift temporary factory and develop a worldwide trade we can easily achieve it at two places, in Kandy and Anuradhapura because flowers are available in plenty.

Secondly, the Government must establish a unit to attend to research and guide the factories that make perfumes in the Districts. My mind travels back to my days when I served in Kegalla in 1968 and 1969 and Matara in 1971 and 1973. The Government Agent was held in charge of the Powerlooms in the area and if I remember right there were five Powerlooms in each District and this offered employment to hundreds of youths, This was possible because the Small Industries Department had a Research and Helping Unit at Velona, at Moratuwa to provide the necessary expertise to the Powerlooms all over the island. With one masterstroke, the IMF dictate of making us follow the Structural Adjustment Programme in 1977 abolished all public sector efforts at employment creation. And with that one decision out went Velona and our Powerlooms. And sad to say with that a country that was self-sufficient with fabric and textile manufacture became a  country that imported all textiles. No one, then realized that the IMF was playing the sinister role of making all our Third World Countries indebted so that the countries to which we are indebted can call the shots and dictate to us.

Making perfumes is a far easier industry than the Crayon Factory that we established in Deniyaya in 1971. We did not know how to make crayons, but the craze in me to establish a manufacturing industry from scratch made me direct the Planning staff to conduct experiments. This commenced initially in my Residency and when we required sophisticated equipment we took over the science laboratory at Rahula College from around six P.M. to midnight when our scientists, the Planning Officer in the katcheri, Vetus Fernando, aided by the science teachers at Rahula, did a myriad of experiments for close upon two months till we finalized the art of making crayons. It was easily comparable in quality to Crayola Crayons. The only difference was that each crayon was handmade, like most industries in China. The Minister of Industries Mr. Subasinghe was surprised when I showed him a crayon and readily agreed to preside over the sales commencing the ceremony.  Mr. T.B.Illangaratne the Minister for Trade too was mesmerized by its quality and authorized an allocation of foreign exchange to enable the industry to import essential colouring. He gave that allocation from the funds earmarked for the import of crayons. He had the capacity to understand that  our making crayons meant that we can immediately reduce imports- saving valuable foreign exchange.  It was a great industry run by the Morawaka Cooperatives under the leadership of Sumanapala Dahanayake, the Member of Parliament who was also the President of the Cooperative Union. This Crayon Industry became the flagship industry of the Divisional Development Councils Programme and the crayons were sold islandwide till 1977, the day when the IMF took control of our country and dictated us to abolish national planning, stop all public sector run industries, abolish the infrastructure already established for development, allow all imports and allow the free use of foreign exchange and dictated us to live on loans, which has paved the path for our country to become indebted.  Making the Third World countries indebted was the method by which the Third World countries were subjugated. This is the sad story unfolded in my book: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka.

The history of establishing the Crayon Industry has been highlighted to show the difficulty of establishing an industry. The other day I was searching to buy a step ladder at Nawala and found that we make only a small percentage of step ladders. The rest is imported from Thailand and China. A country that cannot make its own step ladders can never establish its own perfume industry. At times I think I am wasting my time writing these ideas of mine.

If we could have successfully established the Crayon Industry I do not see how we can go wrong with establishing a perfume making industry.

We only need some foreign exchange to pay for the mini distillery equipment, which can easily be recouped from the sales that will be generated within the very first year.

Leaving development in the hands of the Private Sector, the recommendation of the IMF means that we will never develop our industries.  The Private Sector’s aim is to make a fast buck like venturing on establishing Supermarkets. It is the public sector that has to take on the difficult task of establishing an import substitution type of industries. Let this fact be engrained into the thinking of our leaders. It is my finding that the aim of the IMF is not the development of our countries. Instead, their task is to restructure our economies to contribute to the economies of the developed countries. It is our Third World economies that run the Developed Economies by sending our foreign exchange to them in various forms like imports, funds for university education- many Universities in the UK depend on the funds charged from foreign students.  Most of our experts do not have the capacity to understand how the IMF  ruined our economies.

Let me hope that the ideas in this paper will be read by people of worth, those who have the authority to do something to build up our lost industries and create employment for our own youth.

Garvin Karunaratne

Former Government Agent, Matara District

27 th August 2016

2 Responses to “A Perfume Making Industry at Anuradhapura and Kandy”

  1. aloy Says:

    These are very valuable ideas.
    I hope we have seen the birth of a new culture in the governance. A country will be as good as its leader.

    I too have a few similar ideas. Necessity is the mother of inventions.

    When I was working in an organisation by the name RCDC that was established under RDA for construction and maintenance of state roads there was a need for the Bituminous Emulsions used in roads construction and maintenance due to a campaign that we initiated to popularize its use. We had one plant supplied by a Swedish company. The spares and chemicals were also supplied by them. The demand was twice the production which I can remember to be about 20 tanker loads. When I had a closer look at the facility I found that it could be duplicated if only we could find someone to integrate the pumps etc with the computer which controlled it. There was a guy who had electronics training in some EU country staying near the place I stayed close to Sethsiripaya and he charged only Rs. 12,000 for the job. It was done by the local operational crew within a time of about a month. When the Swede visited next he was surprised to see another identical plant to the one they supplied for a sum of about Rs. 15 million. This was in mid 80s.

    These days I look after a digital printing office which uses fairly expensive printers (around Rs 4 million each) made in Japan. When one of these broke down recently we got down a guy who was trained in a facility in New Delhi on the same machines. While discussing with him when he was doing the repair, I found that similar machines could be easily assembled in SL, with certain precision parts imported from Germany and others like casings made locally and initially importing PCBs (printed circuit boards) from China which later could be made in places like TOS Lanka at Katunayake FTZ. As Garvin mentioned these need resources an individual cannot provide.

    Many others like Fish Scanners (for 360/Horizontal and not the type in the market that can only scan beneath the boat)
    can be made locally extending the same technology that a university colleague of mine invented for oil exploration in the US. He has become a millionaire with that.

    However I hope the current ministers will not be allowed to import Thibbotu and Black pepper from overseas for commissions like the previous government did for the last 4 and half years that ran our country down to the ground.

  2. aloy Says:

    The Emulsion production was about 20 tanker loads per day. I believe they are still being used.

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