Where more than 70 percent of total world rubber production comes from Southeast Asia which includes countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka; more than twenty million smallholders grow rubber. The farmers in Sri Lanka who hold lands extending from 0.5 to 20 ha (1 to 50 acres) belong to the smallholders. The rubber small holders in Sri Lanka have been contributing significantly to the national production. Their contribution in 2008 had been 71.7 percent of the national production, while the contribution of Regional Plantation Companies (RPC) was 26 percent.
While the large scale plantations had undergone significant structural changes in mid 1990s, due to underperformance as state-owned entities; the smallholding sector thrived in Sri Lanka particularly in tea plantations contributing substantially to the economy by achieving close to international standards. However, it was found that the progress of rubber smallholder development was less than the achievements of large scale rubber plantation development. The productivity of rubber smallholdings of Sri Lanka is in the region of 1,290 kg/ha where as in Malaysia it is around, 1,330 to 1,440 and in Indonesia it is in the range of 1,250 to 1,500 kg/ha.
The majority of rubber smallholders are still so poor in the regions, in spite of the fact that the world rubber prices are significantly high. The situation of smallholders is same in Sri Lanka. Farmers still use low agricultural technologies such as low yielding clones, indigenous practices and lack of management strategies in their production systems. They are inefficient in decision-making processes, have very little initiative in innovations, and a low level of education.
The rubber smallholders in Sri Lanka face the following problems;
· Lack of proper institutional and policy frameworks,
· Lack of directions and education about the availability of resources and information,
· Nature of peasant type of production,
· Lack of information and knowledge about high yielding clones and improved management practices and production systems,
· Lack of soil fertility improvements
· Lack of market orientation
· Reliance on traditional technology, family labour and management.
The smallholders need to pay more attention to improve soil fertility, farming system and management and soil fertility for specific crops. They are required to maintain quality of product that affects the farm income. They need to apply manure and grow cover crops to improve soil fertility. In order to increase the yield, the smallholders need to use high-yielding clones. As smallholders normally use any clone that is readily available to them at the time of planting, it needs to make available high yielding clones that are appropriate for specific areas, and improve their knowledge of clone selection.