Sri Lanka’s first even gamma irradiation plant is set to be operational from early January next year, the Ministry of Technology and Research said.
For the establishment of Multipurpose Gamma Irradiation Facility, the Sri Lankan Government has invested nearly Rs. 760 million.
SLGC is important for a country in view if applications of gamma radiation for variety of important uses such as medical sterilisation, microbial disinfestations of food products and spices, radiation preservation of food and for development of new
industrial materials. The benefits of having an MGIF in the country are: Establishment of new industries require gamma sterilisation, value addition to products that are now exported as unsterilised products, securing better markets for local products such as spices and sea food, increase the level of sterility of medical items used in the health care sector, prepare the local industry to phase out chemicals that are used for chemical sterilisation, development of new industrial raw materials like radiation vulcanised natural rubber latex, assisting small and medium enterprises to start industries that require gamma sterilisation and attract foreign investors to invest in the country using the services of MGIF.
Gamma Irradiation Plants are widely used in a number of countries for sterilisation of medical products and food preservation. The establishment of such a plant will make it possible to obtain a better export market for the significant volume of latex gloves produced in Sri Lanka by several other companies. Latex gloves which are exported at present as un-sterile examination gloves can be exported as sterile surgical gloves, with a very high value addition and is estimated as at least by 400%.
Many local companies could export medical supplies such as syringes, catheters, sterile dressing and saline. It is also noted that these items are currently imported even for domestic use. Thus the establishment of an irradiation plant will not only make it possible to add value to locally manufactured produce, save foreign exchange with regard to domestic requirements of such
products but also create more employment opportunities and ultimately provide service to general public.
However, the main constraint for local production of such products was lack of a facility for sterilisation. Now such a facility is available at Biyagama Export Processing Zone to provide irradiation services to the said industries.
Gamma Irradiation Plants are also used for food preservation. Some of the export products of Sri Lanka such as spices are irradiated in a European country before it is re-exported.
The production and the use of methyl bromide which is widely used for fumigation of export products including spices, is being phased out and can affect the export trade if a viable alternative is not found for disinfestation of these products. Gamma irradiation is a viable alternative and now it is available at Biyagama.
Concerning agricultural products, sprouting of products such as onions, potatoes etc., microbial growth and insects growth on fruits render the product value to a lower level making hindrance to local farmers to obtain profit and sustain in the local market and even closing pathways for export market.
Irradiation facility allows achieving acceptable levels of microbial disinfestations and also avoiding sprout inhibition and insect growth, facilitating to have quality products. The Ministry of Technology and Research took the step forward to establish Gamma Irradiation Facility with the initial Co-60 activity of 250 kCi. The designed maximum activity of the Gamma Irradiation Facility is 3000 kCi and it will be upgraded for the maximum strength with the demand. Having initial activity of 250 kCi, it has been estimated that, at the initial stage Rs. 4,488,000 will be generated per month. Simultaneous with the construction phase of MGIF, aligning of customers to provide the irradiation service was carried out and as a result Lalan Rubbers Ltd., a surgical glove manufacturer and exporter has become one of the main customers of MGIF and is being prepared well in order to get the maximum service from the irradiation facility, by installing new glove packing lines with more sophisticated techniques. Upgrading of the activity will provide to enhance the processing capacity allowing many more customers to obtain irradiation service in future.
The Atomic Energy Authority has already recruited the operational staff. The relevant training has been provided under the Technical Cooperation of International Atomic Energy Agency and ready for the commercial operation of the gamma irradiation facility.