At the tender age of ten, during his school vacation Wijith’s father escorted him to a “Wadiya”, utilized for the processing or “peeling” of cinnamon. Here, he witnessed personnel labouring on the bare floor, in a rather uneasy posture referred to in Sinhalese as – “Anathiyagena”; they were carrying on the activities of scrapping, rubbing, peeling, and so forth. Furthermore, he noted that employees commence work prior to 06.00 o’ clock in the morning, in order to harvest (cut) cinnamon trees and carry them to ‘Wadiya” from the plantations. These individuals were compelled to work even amid rain. Moreover employees were obligated to toil, for extensive hours in an inadequately illuminated environment, via an oil lamp, engaged in the painstaking task of “the peeling”. The processed cinnamon was absently left laying on the floor in unsanitary conditions.
Nevertheless, he was awed with the great passion, tradition, and culture of these people and with the art of cultivating, caring (maintaining), harvesting, and processing cinnamon.
His childhood experiences were lingering in his progressing mind, which later evolved to his lifelong passion. With the aim of conserving the tradition and heritage of the industry, he was ardent in overcoming the social inequities of those involved and elevates the cinnamon processing practices to meet the expectations and satisfy the global customers.
In 2001, he established the first cinnamon processing factory with GMP requirements (“Wadiya to Factory”) with living quarters for workers and also enhanced management practises by accommodating fair trade principles. This establishment achieved the GMP certification in 2005. With this revolutionary change, the dignity of the cinnamon peeler was elevated. Today, the cinnamon peeler is referred to as a “cinnamon processor’.
In 2006, Dassanayake Walauwa Plantation processing factory became the first model HACCP cinnamon processing factory, and within the same year it was recognized as the sole ISO certified model cinnamon processing and packaging factory in Sri Lanka.
Since 2005 to date, Dassanayake Walauwa Plantation has been recognized by the Export Development Board of Sri Lanka and The Spice Council (The apex body for spices and allied products of Sri Lanka) as the Model Cinnamon Processing Factory. The factory has been voluntarily serving the industry to achieve GMP, HACCP, ISO 22000:2005 and FSSC 22000 for cinnamon processing and packaging. The Dassanayake Walauwa Plantation can be proud of guiding cinnamon producing and packaging factory entrepreneurs in achieving GMP, HACCP and ISO 22000:2005 certifications for their organizations.