Production. – The three million acres, which make up the cultivated area, are divided as follows among the main crops (in thousands of acres): coconut, 883; rice, 834; other cereals, 104; tea, 442; rubber, 475; cocoa, 35; cinnamon, 25.
Cattle number almost 1.5 million heads, while sheep are scarce. The coconut plantations are largely in the hands of the natives. The value of coconut products exported in 1926 (fresh coconuts, copra, dried coconut, oil, poonac, fiber and fiber yarn) reached nearly Rs. 79 million.
The quantity of black tea exported annually exceeds 200 million pounds (1925-1926), and that of green tea 13 million pounds for a total of 200 million rupees, or almost 15 million pounds. In 1926 the value of the exported rubber (184 million rupees) was almost equal to that of tea. Rubber plantations are found in the lowlands and in the lower part of the mountain slopes, mostly in the southwest. Cocoa gives two harvests, one in spring and one in autumn, the total value of which averages 2 million rupees. The area planted with cocoa is tending to decrease, which is being replaced by rubber plantations. One would not believe that Ceylon was once famous for coffee, as this crop has almost disappeared: diseases destroyed the old plantations and competition from Brazilian and Javanese coffee prevented their revival. Rice is the main cereal used as food on the island, but it is not produced in sufficient quantities for local consumption. In the south-west there are numerous examples of careful terracing of the hills, so characteristic of the most fertile slopes of Java; in the east and in the north, the cultivation makes great use of irrigation by means of the aforementioned reservoirs.
In addition to cinnamon and lemongrass, essentially characteristic plants of the island, we should note cardamom, areca, tobacco and textile plants such as sisal, capok, cotton; this is grown almost entirely in the arid district of Hambantota.
A special interest is related to fishing. Although the coastal waters are abundant with fish, indigenous catamarans and outriggers are inefficient and there is therefore a significant import of dry fish from South India and the Maldives. A company started fishing with modern systems off Punta Pedro and Cape Comorin in 1927. Pearl fishing in the Gulf of Mannar is under government control. Harvesting takes place only in certain years, that is when it is ascertained that there is a sufficient number of ripe oysters. Oysters are fished at depths between 10 and 20m. by skilled Tamil fishermen, they are then left to decompose and the pearls are recovered by washing. In Lake Tamblegam (Trincomalee bay) a type of fishing is practiced that provides small irregular pearls, rather sought after on the spot although not good enough for the European market. Here the oysters are found at a small depth, and the harvest, which takes place on average every three years, is very abundant (2 million oysters in 1926). Fishing in the Strait of Palk is also interesting chank, univalve molluscs highly sought after in India for the manufacture of jewelry. Indigenous manufactures are of little importance commercially and include mother-of-pearl processing – mainly in Galle -, carving, weaving, basket making and gem cutting.
Geology and morphology. – According to intershippingrates, the island consists of a central mountainous mass, surrounded by broad coastal plains. Various peaks exceed 2000 m., Such as Pidurutalagala (m. 2527), overlooking the well-known health resort of Nuwara Eliya, Adam’s Peak (m. 2243), Kirigalpotta (m. 2395). To the north the coastal plain is almost flat, elsewhere its surface is somewhat irregular.
The mountains of Ceylon are formed in precambric crystalline rocks closely related to those of the great massif of India, of which the island was originally part. These ancient rocks are important for sapphires, rubies, topazes, beryls, and other precious stones that are obtained from the rock disintegration pockets and from the floods deposited along the western flanks of the mountain massif. Another important mineral obtained from ancient rocks is graphite. The same rocks also constitute the subsoil of the coastal plain where they emerge in some points, but are almost everywhere covered by a high layer of laterite. In the north, the ancient rocks were covered with soft limestone from the Tertiary. All around the island there are sand dunes formed by the sea, behind which there are often fresh or brackish water lagoons. Sandy islands and peninsulas extend from the northern coasts and reduce to 35 km. the strait that separates the island from India (port of Dhanushkodi), strewn with rocks and sand banks (v.Adam, Bridge of). The coasts of Ceylon are generally low, but there is no lack of rocky promontories, such as the tip of Galle at the entrance to the ancient port of the same name. Coral grows around the island, coral reefs are numerous and the sand itself is made up largely of minute coral particles.