The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 6

Rukshana Rizwie
his supposed science project by
a schoolgirl goes to the extent of
highlighting just much sugar is
infused in many of the soft drinks we
consume.While this projectmay seem
as an isolated incident, governments
across the world are realizing that
sugar content may not be all that is
quoted in labels.
India for instance, has asked US
soft drinks giant PepsiCo to reduce
the sugar content of its sodas since
the country is battling growing levels
of obesity and diabetes. Chairman
of PepsiCo had met with their
food processing Industry Minister
Harsimrat Kaur Badal to discuss
plans for healthier options.
It is unclear if an agreement had
been reached, but the soda giant has
been replacing some of the sugar in
its fizzy drinks with Stevia, a natural
sweetener which is widely used in
Europe and parts of Asia.
The call for slimming down
on sugar content has been in the
backdrop of rampant malnutrition in
India, where soft drinks and fast food
consumption has increased among
the middle classes as incomes have
risen, ultimately leading to rise in
obesity and diabetes levels.
Local statistics issued by the
Health Ministry have revealed that
25% of the population in Sri Lanka
is currently suffering from diabetes.
The figure is estimated to be doubled
by 2050.
A statement issued by the
Ministry of Health cited that 10%
of schoolchildren were suffering
from diabetes while another 15%
were at risk of being affected by the
disease. According to the Ministry,
500 to 600 people have had to undergo
amputations annually due to the
The Ministry pointed out that
unhealthy food habits such as too
much sugar intake and carbohydrates
were among some of themain reasons
for the increase in stats.
The Nation
queried from
the Sri Lanka Standards Institution
sweeteners, it was revealed that there
is no set standard to measure the
sweetness of products available in
the context of Sri Lanka.
Local market share
KiK Cola, a recent entrant to the
market, revealed not very long ago
that its drink reached over 1 million
liters in sales in December (2010)
alone, being sold in over 60,000 outlets,
and being in the market so far for only
around six weeks.
Meanwhile the same article quoted
Coke expecting to see a 15% growth
in the year 2011. Quoting figures from
research data, Patrick Pech, Country
Manager of Coca-Cola Beverages Sri
Lanka said the total market here for
all beverages is around 150 million
liters annually. Of this 42 - 43% or
some 85 % is shared (equally) by
both Coke and Elephant House (all
its beverages). Pepsi has a 10% stake
while the rest (4-5%) comes fromother
smaller beverage firms like Sha Cola
and My Cola. The smaller colas and
their market share will be affected
by the battle amongst the top three.
This is always the case when the
giants battle, he added.
Close to one-fifth of all adults
with diabetes in the world live in
the South-East Asia Region. The
number of people with diabetes in
India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
make up 99% of the total for the
region. The number of people with
diabetes in the region will increase
to 120.9 million by 2030, or 10.2% of
the adult population. A further 23.8
tolerance (IGT) in 2011, and this
will increase to 38.6 million by 2030.
Page 6 Sunday, September 21, 2014 The Nation
Arthur Wamanan
major project to expand ag-
riculture production in Ki-
linochchi is in the pipeline
with plans to include 4,000 acres
of land, government officials said.
Agriculture has been the main
source of income for hundreds of
families in Kilinochchi for years.
The sector was one of the most af-
fected in the North and the Wanni,
owing to the conflict situation and
the lack of proper infrastructure
facilities to sustain the produc-
When the war ended five years
ago, farmers had no option, but to
start life from scratch. However,
the Government and other hu-
manitarian agencies did identify
the importance of agriculture in
the region and provided them
with equipment, seeds and mon-
etary assistance.
Five years on, the sector had
come a long way in terms of pro-
duction and sustenance. Deputy
Director, Agriculture (Extn), Ki-
linochchi, A. Selvaraja stated that
fresh plans were on the cards to
increase the land area in order
to develop the sector in the war
affected region.
Speaking to
The Nation
, Sel-
varaja mentioned that they were
targeting lands that are adjacent
to the coast and lagoon areas that
are likely to contain high level of
salinity. He stated that the project
would be carried out in collabora-
tion with the Irrigation Depart-
ment would take some time to
According to Selvaraja, the
project would need a lot of plan-
ning since they would have to
reduce the salinity levels of the
soils so that the lands could be
used for cultivation. “These lands
have very high salinity levels and
therefore we cannot use them for
cultivation. We have proposed that
these lands be used for cultivation
purposes. But the process would
take some time since it is high on
salinity,” he said.
However, a specific time frame
is yet to be decided to commence
the project. He stated that the proj-
ect would not take off until the
drought situation in the region
the biggest challenge
He stated that the project, even
though at its basic stages, could
not be taken off ground owing to
the severe drought conditions that
had affected farming and agricul-
ture sector.
The main reason for the several
parts of the country faced with
lack of rain for months had af-
fected the production of crops.
Selvaraja stated that there had
been no rains since November last
year. Accordingly, the drought is
the worst since the mid-80s. “To
my knowledge, this was the worst
since 1982/83,” he said.
The lack of rain since Novem-
ber had not only dried up tanks
and reservoirs, but also reduced
the water levels in domestic wells.
“Most families in this region de-
pend on well water for almost ev-
erything and when that dries up,
we are faced with severe problems.
We had a couple of days of rains
in August, but that wasn’t even
enough to raise the water levels in
our wells,” Selvaraja added.
The production rate, which had
been at a steady increase since the
end of war, is now facing a drop
owing to the drought. “We are fac-
ing a situation where we provide
water in bowsers to areas that
were never affected by drought,”
he said.
Impact on production
Selvaraja pointed out that
farmers in Kilinochchi had faced
a 40% reduction in paddy cultiva-
tion during the Yala season add-
ing that the pattern was likely to
continue during Maha season if
rains do not come on time. “We
have certain targets during each
season. We have been able to reach
only 60% of the target for the Yala
season. This is a huge setback for
our farmers,” he added.
Kilinochchi’s agriculture sec-
tor saw great improvements so
much so that its products were
sold outside the region, thereby
bringing in more income to the
families. “But now the farmers
cannot sell the products outside,”
Selvaraja added.
Management strategies
The local government officials
at one point conducted several
workshops and awareness pro-
grams to farmers on drought
management strategies that fo-
cused mainly on how to conserve
water. “We briefed them on how
they could preserve the crops as
well as the water. We taught tech-
niques such as mulching,” he
However, these techniques too
cannot be used since there was vir-
tually no water left on the ground.
“We need some amount of water
to carry out these preservative
measures. We are supposed to get
rains in the coming days. We hope
we get them on time for the next
harvest season,” Selvaraja added.
A farmer toils in the field (
Drought conditions
affect agriculture sector
Just half a can of Coca Cola will exceed daily rec-
ommended sugar levels if new guidelines - backed by
experts - are introduced.
The new move would see the daily recommended
sugar intake slashed to just 14g a day - the equivalent
of three sugar cubes.
It comes amid calls to ban sugary foods from schools
as part of a radical new plan to combat obesity.
Leading academics have said vending machines sell-
ing sweets and fizzy drinks should also be removed
from public places.
They have also called for a ‘sugar tax’ to increase the
retail price of sugary drinks and sugar-rich foods by at
least 20 percent.
Current guidelines from the World Health Organiza-
tion set a maximum of 10 percent of total energy in-
take from free sugars, with five per cent as a ‘target’.
Free sugars are defined as those added artificially
to foods such as fizzy drinks and confectionery, rather
than naturally occurring sugars found in fruit.
This equates to around 50g of free sugars (10 cubes)
per day as the maximum, with 25g (five cubes) as the
However, new research from University College Lon-
don and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical
Medicine has advised sugars in a person’s diet should
make up no more than three percent of total energy
The latest research suggests that five percent should
be the absolute maximum, say the scientists behind
the report.
A 330ml can of Coca Cola contains 35g of sugar, al-
though the Diet Coke and Coke Zero alternatives are
Scientists claim the drastic step is needed to prevent
soaring tooth decay and spiraling obesity levels.
Found on Facebook:
Here’s an image of a very smart girl’s school science project to show the amount of hidden sugars in various drinks. If only all
of our kids knew that high sugar intake is a contributing factor to weight gain and a host of health issues such as heart disease
and diabetes. Sure hope she got an A – she deserves it!
(photo credit: Inspiration For Mind Body)
Sickening sweetness
Just half a can of Coke
Exceeds the
new daily sugar
Shouldn’t Sri Lanka take a stand?
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