In Ceylon in the eighties, when the coffee plantations were practically exterminated, some attention was paid to the cultivation of Ceara rubber, but difficulties of tapping soon caused this product to be almost entirely neglected. From 1900 onwards further trials were made with this species and with Castilloa, but it was soon found that neither was so well suited as Hevea for the conditions generally prevailing in the planting districts of Ceylon. In fact, except in Africa, the fortunes of the rubber planting industry are almost entirely bound up with those of the last-named genus. Even in the Dutch East Indies, plantations of Assam indiarubber (Ficus elastica) are now being cut down to make way for Hevea brasiliensis. Our further remarks apply therefore mainly to Hevea.
In 1890 about 300 acres had been planted with rubber in Ceylon, and in 1900 about 1750 acres. Planting continued steadily until 1904, when the area was estimated at 11,000 acres, and then came the historic rush into rubber which characterised the years 1905—1907. In 1906 the first World's Rubber Exhibition was held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, and by the end of the year 100,000 acres had been planted. The present area under rubber in Ceylon may be estimated at upwards of 250,000 acres.
In the Federated Malay States the development of the industry was even more rapid. In 1897 rubber estates covered only 350 acres in Malaya. By the end of 1906 the area of rubber plantations was practically equal to that in Ceylon. In 1912 Wright estimated this area to have increased to 420,000 acres. Whereas in Ceylon a material proportion of the rubber has been planted through existing tea estates, practically the whole area under rubber in Malaya has been cleared of virgin forest
After Ceylon and Malaya, the next most important centre for rubber cultivation is the Dutch East Indies. It is estimated that 150,000 acres have recently been planted in Java and 70,000 in Sumatra The latter is largely in the hands of English companies. The greatest part of this rubber is Hevea, but considerable areas of Ficus, Castilloa and Manifiot also exist in Java.
Although India was the country originally proposed for the site of a great planting industry, the early consignments of seeds the first dates back to 1873 did not meet with much success, and little planting took place before 1900. At the time of writing, however, 40,000 acres have probably been planted with Hevea in Southern India.
In West Africa at the present time plantations probably consist about equally of Hevea and of the native Funtumia. In Angola and in Central and East Africa, on the other hand, Ceara rubber is beginning to be widely cultivated. In America, too, the natural sources of rubber are being widely supplemented by plantations. In Mexico large areas are cultivated with Castilloa, and at the present time the Brazilian Government is making great efforts to encourage the establishment of Hevea plantations.
Wright gives the following estimate of the world's planted acreage in 1912:
Dutch East Indies, Borneo and Pacific Islands
South India and Burma
Mexico, Brazil, Africa and W. Indies
This estimate is probably rather under than over the mark. An estimate by Van den Kerckhove gives 220,000 for Mexico, 80,000 for Brazil, and 100,000 for Africa. His total for the world is 1,131,000 acres in 1912.