It has been suggested that the collection of the seeds which are now produced in large quantities on Hevea plantations may form the basis of a profitable minor industry, since the kernels contain about 40 per cent of an oil which is similar to linseed oil, and has been favourably reported upon by chemists at home. The suggestion to lease out the right of collecting the seeds does not appear a very happy one, owing to the opportunities for thefts of rubber which such an arrangement would afford. But at times of abundance the collection could be readily carried out on the estate by children too small to take part in the tapping and other regular work.

Hevea seeds weigh about 7 lb. per thousand, and the cost of collection last year was given by the Superintendent of the Peradeniya Experiment Station as under half a cent a pound. As the kernels represent approximately half the weight of the seeds, a ton of kernels will not cost more than Rs. 22.50 to collect under these circumstances. To this must be added the cost of decorticating the seeds, and for this purpose machines are under trial, with which it is hoped to perform the operation at a comparatively small expense. It is possible that the development of this subsidiary industry will form an appreciable addition to the value of rubber estates in the future.

Labour

In densely inhabited countries like Java and South India, where the native population is obliged to work hard in order to obtain a meagre living, efficient labourers for employment on plantations are readily available at low wages. These two countries also provide a large number of emigrants to other parts of the Eastern Tropics which are less favoured in this respect, owing to the indolence or small numbers of the native population. Even in India a good deal depends upon the position and healthiness of the plantation. In every country some estates are always well supplied with labour, whilst others are exposed to constant difficulties in this respect

Ceylon has also a considerable native population, and the number of Sinhalese labourers on rubber estates is increasing. The supply is however by no means equal to the demand, and the deficit is made up exclusively by immigrant Tamils and kindred races from the neighbouring peninsula. In Sumatra the labour employed on the rubber estates is principally immigrant Javanese, emigration being permitted by the Government of the Dutch colonies subject to certain regulations. The Malay Peninsula is comparatively thinly populated, and the Malays do not take kindly to regular work on plantations. There is also a considerable Chinese population, of which many are employed in the mining industry; but Chinese labour has not been found entirely satisfactory for harvesting rubber, although the Chinese are widely employed in clearing and planting. In addition to a certain number of Chinese, Javanese and Malays, the rubber estates are principally supplied with indentured labour from

Southern India. Indeed, the drain of coolies from favoured districts in South India has recently been so great that the local planters are finding a difficulty in supplying their own needs, and there is a tendency to place obstacles in the way of further emigration. Large areas still exist, however, which have not yet been exploited by the labour agencies, and a good deal can probably still be done in this direction.

The number of labourers employed on estates of all kinds in the Federated Malay States in 1910 was approximately as follows:

Table XXVII. Labourers On Rubber Estates In Malaya In 1910

Tamils

..... 99,000

Chinese

..... 46,000

Javanese

..... 18,000

Malays

..... 14,000

Others

...... 2,000

Total 179,000

The great majority of the above were at work on rubber estates.

The number of Indian Tamils in Ceylon is probably nearly half a million, of whom perhaps a quarter are employed in the rubber planting industry. Every year a considerable proportion of these labourers returns to India by way of Tuticorin. The Manaar Railway is expected to be open next year, when the Tuticorin route will be little used. This increased facility will probably increase the flow of immigration.

Where recourse is had to immigrant coolies, the cost of their introduction must be paid by the estate, and in addition some advance is usually made, which may or may not be wholly recoverable from the labourers' wages within a certain number of years. In recent years, owing to the competition for labour, the system of advances in Ceylon has given rise to much abuse, and a state of affairs has arisen which is entirely opposed to the best interests of employer and employed alike.

The rates of wages paid to immigrant coolies, although sufficient to attract large numbers to leave their native country, are not very high according to western ideas. A good worker on a Ceylon rubber estate may earn from 50 to 60 cents a day {id. to lod.) and in the Malay States rather more. The governments of these countries have recently introduced legislation to protect the interests and welfare of the labourers, and increased attention is paid to their comforts and sanitation, whilst hospitals and schools are now being provided in all districts.