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Plantation farming may be defined as large scale-production of CASH CROPS such as rubber, tobacco sugarcane, coffee, cotton, tea, banana in estates usually on mono cultural basis. It is usually carried on by efficient scientific methods, under a manager with a large force of paid labour, involving a considerable community organization and administration.
Physical and Economic conditions. Of the rubber exuding trees, HEVEA BRASILIENSIS is the principal one, and it is native to the Amazon basin of Brazil, Peru, Equador and Colombia. The rubber tree thrives best in these regions where the average annual rainfall is 250 cm or more. Rainfall should be well distributed throughout the year with no month having less than 6 cm. Uniformly high temperature of 27°C and more provides the ideal temperature conditions for the growth of rubber tree; temperature below 210 is injurious. Gently rolling land, preventing waterlogging and overdevelopment of soil and promoting transportation is considered to be yet another factor for the development of rubber plantation.
History. In the year 1906, the Amazon basin and to a little extent the African tropics produced nearly 99% of the world's rubber, but before the elapse of even 50 years, i.e. in 1950, their share slumped to 2%. This decline was due to the change to relative position rather than the absolute one. Brazil led the world in the production of natural rubber, coming from trees growing wild in the dense Amazon forests. However, the Brazilian Government imposed legal restrictions prohibiting the export of rubber shoots or seeds but in 1876, one Wickham, appointed by the British Government managed to smuggle 70,000 seeds out of Brazil. This led to the initiation of rubber plantation in British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. Although the South American rubber producing nations are more or less self sufficient against their meagre consumption, they do not entertain the hope of regaining the world supremacy.
Superiority of SE Asia. Southeast Asia represents nearly 90% of the world's production of natural rubber. The important countries in this region comprise Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, India and Cambodia. The advantages of this region spring from certain geographic, economic and political conditions which are as follows:
(a) Physical conditions of rainfall, temperature and topography as indicated previously are exceedingly favorable for the growth of rubber trees. (b) Insular and peninsular locations of the countries facilitate ready access to the busy ocean routes of the world. (c) Cheap land on low coastal plains is encircled with deep, loose and well-drained clay loam, allowing the taproots to grow nearly 3 meters deep. (d) Physical conditions are so equable that within 5 years of planting trees become ready for taping. (e) Excepting a few weeks of low rainfall, year round tapping ensures much higher productivity than the Amazon basin. (f) Laborers are efficient and available in plenty. (g) Plantation is located near the coast or along the railroad favoring easy shipment. (h) The region as a whole is on the great trade routes connecting the Orient with the Western Europe to the west and the United States to the east. (i) Scientific research led not only to a 500% increase in yield but also to the development of a hybrid of plantation and wild rubber, which has most of the advantage of both but few of the disadvantages of either. (j) Rubber of this region is cheaper in price yet better in quality when compared to the Amazonian product.
All these conditions amply emphasize how and why the 'rubber plantation of the Southeast Asia enjoys overwhelmingly superior environmental conditions. Its Vitality became evident in its quick recovery after the Second World' War when the Japanese bombing inflicted a loss of nearly 12% of the plantations and a heavy damage of rubber factories, housing and transportation.
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