Government and the Emerging Rubber Industries in Indonesia and Malaya, 1900–1940
The events surrounding the introduction of Hevea Brasiliensis from South America to South and Southeast Asia in the late nineteenth century are well documented. Commercial planting of rubber began in the 1890s, and by 1940 the total world area under rubber amounted to some 3.6 million hectares. Indonesia and Malaya were by far the foremost producers, each with around 1.4 million hectares. Chinese proprietary planters had predominated until the 1880s and 1890s, when European pioneers took up sugar and coffee cultivation. As with Indonesian smallholders, the involvement of Malays in small-farm rubber growing occurred without active government support or encouragement. The easy availability of land on favourable terms was vital to estate development in both countries. The emergence of the Indonesia and Malayan rubber industries was a major international economic development, in which the governments of both countries played important but differing roles. A striking feature of both industries was the emergence of two sectors—corporate estates and family smallholdings.