The Valachena Paper Factory and Paper Making as an industry
Posted on June 5th, 2020

By Garvin Karunaratne

It is heartening to note that action is being taken to resurrect the Valachenai Paper Factory. I have had the occasion to see the paper being made when I had used their Circuit Bungalow on my circuits in the Sixties. In fact on my visit to Batticaloa in 2019 I drove up to the gates  that were closed, gazed at the ruins of the great industrial complex imagining what a loss it was. The Government needs to be congradulated on its success.

In its hey days it was lorryloads of straw from Hingurakgoda and Polonnaruwa that were the raw material  for paper making. It was a boon- an additional income to the farmers.

I had highlighted several times in my books and endless Papers that paper making is an area where we can easily succeed. I have suggested that a few small scale paper making machines should be imported and set up in our colonies. This is a task that can easily be done within two months and we can get Paper using the straw of the Yala 2020 paddy crop.  The funds being used to import the machines and installatioin can easily be recouped within the first two years. It will be a massive saving on our import bill because today we do not make any paper. In my days acting alone as the GA at Matara I established the Boatyard with two months. I am certain that President Gotabhaya’s Government can do better.

All our paper is imported today.

Paper making needs the short fibre available in the straw to be mixed with the long fibre. Earlier Paper pulp was imported and mixed with the straw. May I suggest that immediate action be taken to collect all the waste paper from government offices, make them into pulp in Colombo and feed the pulp to Valachenai.

It is sad that perhaps Sri Lanka is the only country in the world that does not make paper out of waste paper. I hark back to my days in Bangladesh where when, I noticed some youths carefully collecting the cardboard covers on lunch packets served to the hundreds of youths that participated in the Training Workshops on my Self Employment Programme. They were using the discarded  cardboard to make paper and cardboard. Today waste paper is being exported to India and we earn some $ 4.6 million (2015). Then we import the cardboard and paper that India make out of the waste paper that we have sent to them for which we pay them double or treble what we got for selling the waste paper to them. That in a nutshell is the neoliberal economics we have followed from 1978 . We were foolish to have followed neoliberal economics. But in 1978 neoliberal economics was forced on us an we were provided with loans and grace period of non payment  periods on loans and the IMF enticed us.

 In fact under the Divisional Development Programme of 1970-     1977 the Divisional Secretary at Kotmale set up a small industry making paper out of waste paper.  That was a great success.  The key player in that was the Divisional Secretary at Kotmale. I am sorry I do not know his name. If he is found he should be put in charge of setting up a few paper making Industries. That is how giants have to be entrusted with specific tasks.

Many thanks to the engineers labouring to make Valachenai a success and to President Gotabhaya.

 It is also hoped that they will also  immediately take up my proposal to import a few small scale paper making machines and set them up in the colonies. This can easily be done and we will save on the foreign exchange being used to import paper. I can assure of success. These small scale industries will be a far easier task than the crayon factory I established in Morawaka in 1972. There I had to find the method of making crayons which took three months’ of experiments at the RahulaCollege science lab. In the case of paper making the art is well known and nothing can go wrong.

I wonder what is happening to the Industrial Development Board, the prime institute established by Minister Philip Gunawardena to set up industries in our country. My only contact with them was when I was Government Agent at Matara, when the Ministry of Plan Implementation sought their approval to my proposals to set up industries in Matara.   Instead of helping the Government Agents they  were putting up hurdles against us. They disapproved my suggestion to set up a Water Colour Paint Box Industry on the grounds that none of the ingredients that went into the manufacture were made in Matara. I had to remind them that if Japan can buy the cotton from Egypt, take it all the way to Japan, make textiles and sell the textiles back  to people in Egypt we too should be able to make water colour paint boxes collecting the raw materials from where ever, provided we made a profit and found employment for our youth. At that time we imported 95% of our water colour paint boxes. 

 I had to ignore both,  them   and the Ministry of Plan Implementation in establishing my Crayon Factory.- Making crayons was a great success and it was the show piece of the Divisional Development Programme with successful production and islandwide sales. It was so much of a success being run as Coop Crayon by Sumanapala Dahanayake, the MP for Deniyaya in his capacity as the President of the Coop Union that made President Jayawardena send a special investigation unit  under A T Ariyaratne, Deputy Director of Cooperatives, to audit and found fault with Sumanapala.  They found it a thriving industry and all books in order. Sumanapala was saved a soujourn at Welikada.

May I suggest that our President may call the Industrial Development Board and spur them to action at least to pay back something for the fat salaries that have drawn over the past decades.

Let me caution our leaders to take care. Paper Making is held within a small group of multinationals and they would go to any extent to sabotage any attempt because they stand to lose in millions when we stop imports. I can remember what happened to our milk food industry. Let me quote from my 2006 book:

It is interesting to note that the multinationals involved in supplies have even gone to the extent of sabotaging local production. Recently  the managing director of Kiriya a company that is trying to make Sri Lanka  self sufficient in milk production said  that he suspects a foreign hand  in sabotaging his attempts  to develop local Production.”(How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka  and Alternative Programmes of Success:Godages:2006)

Sabotage is the motto of the multinationals  and we have to take care.

Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D. Michigan State University   06052020

Author of : How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development(Kindle/Godages) 2017

How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka and Alternatiuve Programmes of Success,, Godages,2006

One Response to “The Valachena Paper Factory and Paper Making as an industry”

  1. dhane Says:

    As a Printer during sixties & Seventies we used Paper and Box Board made by Valachena and Ebilipitiya Paper Factories.
    At that time head office was on Union Place nest Hyde Park corner. They were good qualities. If continued to improved both these factories would have make better paper & box Board them importing mainly from South India out of the waste paper that we have sent to India. At present the Machinery of these two factories may be out dated but still could be up dated.

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