HVA Foods PLC has gained ground on acquiring state land to start its US $ 4 million organic agriculture resort near Wilpattu as a proposal by Land and Parliamentary Reforms Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka to lease 69.9 hectares or 172.2 acres of land to the company has received the cabinet approval.
HVA Foods subsidiary, HVA Farms (Pvt.) Ltd, had initially requested 500 acres in the 1990s but was allocated 250 acres, including for a 25-acre pilot farm.
The pilot farm received its land and was a success and HVA had later requested the remaining land extent of 225 acres.
The state had however said that another 50 acres should be held back, in order to construct a reservoir.
As reported by Mirror Business earlier this year, HVA Foods PLC Chairman Rohan Fernando urged the then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake to direct the state to honour the lease agreement, which was signed in 2012, and release the deed for the remaining 175 acres of land.
Fernando had noted that the Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that HVA Farms be allocated the land, after activists backed by groups with vested interests had disrupted operations at the pilot fruit farm project in the same location and obstructed the disbursement of land since 2006.
He had said that the land would be used to cultivate export-oriented agriculture, as well as an ecotourism project named San Vincent Ranch. HVA Foods expects agriculture exports to generate US $ 3-4 million in revenue annually. The farm will include value-added production with fruit pulping and dehydration stations.
Fernando said that the expansion plans have already received the necessary environmental clearances.
HVA Foods produces the Heladiv tea brand and operates the Heladiv Tea Club tea cafes.