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Back NEWS Asia Socio-Political analysis of Lankan farmers

Socio-Political analysis of Lankan farmers

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There is only one truthful principal in this world. It should be compiled from objective reality and it should be tested by objective reality. Other than this, no other principal is eligible to be considered as a viable principal by us. Stalin said that when a principal is not connected with practicality then it becomes void of an objective. An objective without an aim is a futile one; and it is a hoax and therefore, should be rejected. Those who are inclined on nurturing such pointless principals should be disdained instead of commended. Marxism and Leninism are good theories. They are scientific and are revolutionary. They are from objective reality and were test proven by same. Mao Tsetung stated in one of his treatises that those who study Marxism and Leninism assume it as a latent and dormant ideals and such persons become impediments to the proliferation of those ideals. Consequently, they harm themselves as well as others.

This account analyses the basic question of Lankan agricultural produce and their objective realities. Is Sri Lanka still land of semi feudalism? What are the changes occurred there over agricultural produce and in their inter relations? An economic and political analysis about these are necessary today. The outcomes of the three armed conflicts that erupted in the country since 1970 during different times would explicate the petty bourgeoisie political reason that asserts this necessity.

If Sri Lanka is not a semi feudalistic country then what kind of a country is it? Or is it a country of neo colonialism? Is the Lankan agriculture an capitalistic activity? Or is it of the production method of neo capitalistic colonialism? If not what kind of agricultural activity does the country possess?

It becomes necessary to study about the cultural aspects prevailed upon the semi feudalism and it is also necessary studying how to confront it. Agricultural analysis of Sri Lanka is crucial when determining its political and military strategies.

According to 2010 statistics, Sri Lanka is a country with a workforce of 8.1 million. The workforce is divided into three categories. Additionally, we have to be attentive on the 2 million strong workforce that are dependent on outside labor.

Agriculture represented 12.7 % and industrial sector stood for 29.7 % while service sector depicted 57.6 in the total GDP of year 2009. In the meantime, agriculture was 16.8 % of the overall national revenue and it kicked in 35% of the total export earnings in 1999.

In year 2009, 28 % of the total arable land was utilized for paddy cultivation in which 25 % of the total workforce had been engaged compared to 2005 in which half of the total Lankan workforce had been engaged in paddy cultivation. During 1998, 96 % of the country’s need was satisfied by small scale cultivations. The monetary representation of this output had been a gigantic LKR 39.60 billion.

When Sri Lanka’s population was 6.6 million in 1940, the country produced 262,000 tons of paddy and 60 % of the country’s paddy need was fulfilled by imports compared to 1998 when the population had exploded almost to three folds to 18.6 million and the local paddy production had reached a phenomenal peak of 2.6 million tons which shrank the paddy imports to a negligible 4 %.   During the decade of 1960-’69 the local paddy output had been 1.06 million tons while the population was 11.6 million and 40 % of the needed paddy had to be imported compared to the next decade (1970-1979) in which imports dwindled to 25 % of the local consumption while the population had increased by another 2.1 million to reach 13.7 million and the local paddy output had increased to 1.564 million tons. In this context, production of paddy had constantly indicated an upward trend in the country. Significantly, independent small scale cultivation activities had been responsible for a greater portion of this noteworthy progress rather than semi colonial land ownership functions. However, various transformations have taken place ever since. Few are given below:

  • 2003 statistics indicated that 67 % had assumed non agricultural activities as their livelihoods.
  • During the period 1980-2003 about 27, 4000 plantation workers left the industry.
  • The expanse of land utilized under the Mahaweli Scheme for agriculture during 2001 had been 137,235 hectares compared to 185,459 in 2005 and subsequently the area grew up to 212,704 by 2010.

The workforce dispersion had been spread as follows in 2010:

Industry - 1.87 million (24.2 %)

Agriculture - 2.52 million (32.7 %)

Service - 3.32 million (43.1 %)

During 1992 the figures excluding the North and the East regions had been as follows:

Industry - 0.99 million (20.1 %)

Services - 1.85 million (37.7 %)

Agriculture - 2.08 million (42.2 %)

When we compare the above statistics, it clearly indicates that the number engaged in agriculture has dwindled while the service and industrial sectors have relatively absorbed the difference.  Almost one third of the Lankan workforce is engaged presently in agricultural activities. The question we have now is, how can we categorize this representation? During the period 1999-2000, 50 % of the total poor of this country had been engaged in this sector.

According to 2004-2006 statistics 2.8 million has been classified as poor who represents 12.6 of the total population of Sri Lanka. The figure consisted of 2.3 million members of 47,800 rural families and 61,000 from estate and plantation families. These are parts where the people in abject poverty are scattered.

It is necessary to identify these workforces accurately from a political perspective. Only by identifying their socio-economic profile, it is possible to mobilize their political demands.

Understanding the basic disparity in the capitalistic agricultural system

First and foremost, it is important to have knowledge and perception about the kind of agricultural activity prevailing in Sri Lanka. However, semi feudalistic produce and their relations did not totally eradicate this system. Especially, modern machinery and capitalistic wage system (money for products) would not instill any changes in this method. Political ambiguity and political tactics on these mechanisms are being attempted to depict the system as a capitalistic one while denying its semi feudalistic façade.

In other words, there exist an ambiguity that makes drawing the line between capitalistic wage system and the semi feudalistic system extremely difficult. And efforts to prevail the semi feudalism through reforms, and the revolutions that have infiltrated the agricultural sector through the utilization of modern machinery and changes in the relations of produce have helped maintain this indistinctness.

1. Capitalism siphons off the maximum benefits and to enable this, labor has been made independent within the capitalistic system.

2. Feudalistic production method either loots the additional labor or the additional produce. Labor become independent in the feudalistic production method.

In this manner, landownership loots maximum effort of the worker in non economic ways and by employing aggressions of its own. This includes authority, concessions, clout, dignity, race which is totally against the capitalistic productions method.

Making the worker entwine to the tool of land ownership (especially with the land) is a primary feature of this social system of land ownership. This is against the method of person who invests his effort freely marketing his own produce in the market place.  In other words, the worker is not at liberty to be adequately benefited by his work by untangling him from the landownership system. This method of worker being controlled by the tool of production - which is the land - differentiates the semi feudalistic agriculture from the produce based capitalistic agricultural system.

Thus in Sri Lanka…

1. The factor how does the land ownership function becomes an important consideration in the political evaluation of agriculture.

2. The second most important factor is how does agricultural forces sell the labor in the political evaluation of agriculture.

Let us make an in-depth analysis in this matter.

1. Collapse of the semi feudalistic land ownerships and changes occurred in the relations of produce

The collapse of the semi feudalistic land ownerships in Sri Lanka was not triggered by any revolution of the farmers or landlords. Nor did Sri Lanka see any capitalistic democratic revolution. Introduction of modern machinery or the capitalism of independent farmers too did not influence this transformation. There was no agricultural revolution either. It did not happen as Carl Marx said that ‘adopting the trader in the lethargic farmer.’ It did not happen because new relations of produce were adopted into old ones. It did not happen by raising taxes to land lords. It did nit happen by violence. There was neither capitalistic agricultural revolution nor a capitalistic revolution without a farming community.

Nevertheless, somehow new breeds of independent farmers have been come into being.

It is political and historic factors that have influenced the progress of societies rather than specific economic factors. Semi feudalistic land ownerships were demolished due to various kinds of objective political contexts and it also destroyed feudalistic relations of productions. But this did not necessarily transform it to capitalistic production method.

This also has enabled marketing the labor along with creating small as well as affluent farmers. Independent agricultural produce and relations of produce are seen mixed with capitalistic neo colonial and semi feudalistic factors based on social ethics.  Before we plunge into this, let us observe how did the feudalistic land ownership was demolished.

1.1 Irrigation and new agricultural settlements that demolished feudalistic land ownerships.

In Sri Lanka irrigation projects and land allocations continued in three basic political foundations:

1. Expansions were carried out with racial outlook.

2. They were carried to appease the youth in order to divert their uprising against the government.

3. They were carried out by presenting political reforms put forth in order to prolong the rulers in office with phony leftist postures.

Meanwhile, newly educated generation assumed petty bourgeoisie foundation as its independent base instead of semi feudalism.

This political foundation freed the farmers from the grip of land ownership and created independent farmers. These schemes constantly helped the new generation who got education in the mother tongue and thanks to the Free Education Policy, to untangle them from the landownership inherited from their fathers.

Accordingly, the irrigation projects instigated in Sri Lanka are very commendable ones which have been handed down from generations and are well maintained. Post colonial rulers expanded water supply and carried out land dispersion excellently. This too helped creation of independent farmers.

In 1968 about 352,000 hectares of land were subjected to paddy cultivation and during 1986 Mahaweli Project provided another 76,000 hectares for same. By 1992 593,000 hectares were benefiting from the irrigation systems. According to 2005 statistics 13 million hectare/meter water was utilized for cultivations.

There are 60 large reservoirs and 260 smaller ones which provide water for dry regions. There are over 14,000 employees working in the irrigation related services. This water resource is responsible for 6 % of local output. A total of 660,000 hectares (29 %) are cultivated thanks to this irrigation system, according to the Department of Agriculture. In the meantime, population in the dry zone increased from 12 % to 19 % during the period 1946-1971.

According to 2006 reports, 85 % of the total land under this irrigation system was utilized for paddy cultivation. 2.2 million members of the farming community including 700,000 full fledged farmers depend on paddy cultivation who represent about a tenth of the total population of the country. These farmers are mainly of the small scale ventures.

During the period between 1930 and 2000, 63 % of the total arable lands were distributed among people by the government which is 1.36 million hectares. 575,449 hectares were handed over legally and 260,283 hectares which was forcibly acquired by people were later given away to them. This helped farmers to become independent on their agricultural activities and created small scale independent farmers. This also expanded the rural mass in the country and instigated new settlements.

Significant changes that occurred during 1953-1985 are as follows:

New settlements                                               175941 Hectares

Rural expansion                                                 357239 Hectares

Residential settlements                                       13565 Hectares

Youth settlements                                              7964  Hectares

Lawful land acquisitions                                          205762 Hectares

Middle Class settlements                                    55019  Hectares

Land grants (special provisions)                           9980  Hectares

Upcountry agricultural settlements                         5363  Hectares

Total                                                                830833 Hectares

Thus the transformation of rural farmers to freedom upon acquiring land possession relieved them from the feudal system. Yet, they were not affectively released from the feudal culture.

During 1931 - 1941 thirteen new settlements were established by settling 3145 settlers. Subsequently, during 1948 - 1953 10,426 were settled in another 16 new settlements.

By the end of 1978 new settlements were established as follows:

Dry Zone

No. of Projects




40,294 Hectares



10,366 Hectares

East & South East


8,733 Hectares

North West


5,784 Hectares

By the end of 1997 settlements established under the Mahaweli Scheme



Total hectares irrigated


Settled families


Farming families


Summer harvest - paddy (1991)

50,750 Hectares

Winter harvest - paddy ’91 - ‘92

67,735 Hectares

The land dispersion took place in Sri Lanka paved the way for the establishment of small scale farming system based on small time farmers.

Until 1953, 5 acres of low land and 3 acres of high land were distributed under this program of new settlements. From 1953 onwards the land area granted was reduced to 3 acres of low land and 2 acres of high land and subsequently it was further reduced to 2 acres of low land and one acre of high land. Since then the distribution has further dwindled to 2.5 acres of paddy land and half acre of high land (house plot).

In this manner, the area given to individuals gradually shrank drastically due to the population growth and due to the advancements in the agricultural methods. This triggered changes in the relations of produce. Also, this increased the number of independent farmers. It also liberated production forces from the semi feudal system as well. In the meantime, various other transformation too occurred along with this. Now let us observe what happened to rural land ownerships.

1.2 Land Reform Act that eliminated the feudal system

In 1958, 160,000 hectares were cultivated on leasing agreement. Subsequently, in the same year an Act was established preventing the lessees from evicting from those lands along with an Act which limited the rent to a ceiling of 25 % from a peak of 50 %. During the same period, paddy harvesting clusters were established with the participation of groups of small farmers. This kind of activities were among those initiated by the government that came from leftist backdrops. However, those activities were not altogether successful.

Subseuqnetly, the regimes that came into power who were phony leftists during early to mid 70s limited land ownerships and nationalized 420,000 (981,368 acres) including plantations that had joint shares with British investors along with individual land possessions. It is worth deeply studying these occurrences.

Land Reform Act of 1972 restricted land ownerships to 10 hectares (25 acres) of paddy land and 20 hectares (50 acres) of mountainous high land. Thus the total expanse nationalized in 1975 was recorded as 419,100 hectares. During the period 1972 - 1975 39.7 % of the tea plantations, 17.8 % of the rubber plantations, 11.5 % of coconut plantations were nationalized. Nationalized other lands were 31 %.  The World Bank had identified  2.26 million hectares as arable land in 2001 and approximately 20 % of this expanse was nationalized in 1975 which is one fifth of the total arable land was nationalized.

Dispersion of land nationalized in 1972 are as follows:

Category Average %

Forests, trees, barren land                      176347                          31.3

Tea plantations                                      139726                          24.8

coconut plantation                                  112682                          20.0

Rubber plantation                                   82821                           14.7

Paddy land                                            18592                           3.3

Miscellaneous land                                16902                           3.0

Other                                                     12958                          2.3

kw;Wk;                                               3383                             0.6

Total                                                     563411                          100

12,896 (2.3 %) acres of land returned has not been included in the above list. Under the Act of 1975 417,957 acres were nationalized and a total of 981,368 acres were nationalized under the Act of 1972 - 1975. 395 large scale plantations represented 169,000 hectares were nationalized in 1975.

Land Acts of 1972 and 1975 determined the maximum limit of land an individual could own. Inheritance were limited to 18 year olds by this restriction. Big plantations (tea, coconut, coffee and rubber) too were nationalized. During 1975 large plantations with overseas ownerships too were nationalized. Thus this Act affectively limited the clout of feudalism.

According to reports of 2001, 20 % of the lands were nationalized during the period 1972 -1975. This Act which curbed dispersing land within family members in order to remove the lands from the tentacle of nationalization, affectively demolished the feudalism at the end. Education and petty bourgeoisie attitude eliminated marriages within feudal families and stock piling of lands under single ownerships and helped the society to free from semi feudalism.

Successive regimes that assumed power that came from both left and right camps too encouraged demolition of the feudalism. This also freed the labor forces and created a breed of independent farmers. Racism too encouraged this trend.

1.3 Ethnic settlement that demolished the feudal system

This trend worked from two extremes and fueled hostility among communities from one end and freed the labor forces from feudalism from the other. Additionally, this racial transformation liberated the youth from traditional structures of agro based dynasties

Regional demographic transformations triggered by the pre-planned racial settlements

Community Ampara Trincomalee

1921                  1981                             1921                 1981

Sinhalese                      8.2                    37.6                              4.5                    33.6

Tamil                30.5                  20.1                              53.2                  33.8

Muslim              56.5                  42.3                              42.3                  32.6

There were only 8,744 persons (4.5 %) in the East during 1921. Due to pre-planned racial settlements the number rose to 243,358 (24.9 %) by 1981. This process played a major role in liberating labor forces from the relations of production of the semi feudalism prevailed in predominantly Sinhalese regions. This instigated the birth of independent clusters of small farmers.

1.4 Ethnic uprising that demolished land possessions of feudalism

Communalism consolidated itself and emerged from within a semi feudalism social structure of Sri Lanka with an aptitude exclusive to it. Structures of cast system could be strongly witnessed in the northern part and especially in Jaffna where it has a strong grip on their exclusive social ethics. It has preserved its historic cast system with the help of land possessions that was exclusive for them. This is not dependant on the semi feudalism or vast land ownerships. Nor it was relevant to relations of produce. In the meantime, cast based semi feudalistic relationships thrived in rural areas that did not possess land. They established themselves on ancestral and cast based industries. In other regions out of north cast system generally prevailed on social relationships such as marriage.

Uprisings against the cast system that erupted in the north in 1960 and that continued until 1970 had negative affects on the ethics of the cast system. A new generation emerged breaking all strangleholds denouncing cast based feudalism and its slavery. The new generation started to show devout interest in education and tended to engage in various livelihoods independently including agriculture. And activities such as processing palm produce, marketing, legalizing the labor force etc were brought under cooperative system during 70s in a regime in which leftist too had been stakeholders.  In such a backdrop, feudalistic tradecrafts, working methods as well as consumption patterns etc started to deteriorate. And the cast uprising that had just ended had provided the political awareness needed for this transformation. When it began to explode outside of the decaying semi feudalism, trend of independently marketing the toil started to emerge defying old traditions. Thus it liberated the labor from the cast based feudalism and feudal based rural cast system began to crumble.

Additionally, the ethnic clash that raged this part of the country for decades and its subsequent fallouts totally wiped off what remained of the semi feudalistic social structure in the village. In particular, traditional ownership of casts over place of living and on land possession were demolished. In stead of semi feudalistic residential areas, mixed cast residential areas started to spring out which eventually led to cross cast marriages and all these transformations slowly but certainly started to rock the core of the cast based semi feudalistic cultures.

The scarcity for hard labor that prevailed after the war enabled the workers to call the shots in term of wages and time as well as the facilities needed for the work. This too made the toil to liberate itself from the semi feudalistic stranglehold. As a result, cast frenzy Jaffna has become the region in the entire country where wages for hard labor is the dearest and has helped emerge a new breed labors who have the luxury of demanding top rupee.

1.5 Three wars that took place after 1970 which demolished the feudal system

Three wars were fought in Sri Lanka since 1970.

1. Approximately half a million perished in the war. This affectively devastated the work force that helped the semi feudalism to thrive and it destroyed the relations of produce of the semi feudalism. This war removed the work force from where they really belonged and made the villages void of them.


2. One million who were recruited from the villages were made armed fighters at the battle field. This removed the work force from the villages needed for the prevalence of the semi feudal system and its relations of produce.

3. War induced migrations also moved relations of produce to other regions. The clash has made one million to drift from north and east toward the west. Reportedly, another million crossed the ocean to India.

Thus a total of about 3.5 million left the north and east and a greater majority of this crowd are youths and this was a mighty blow to the semi feudal system.

1.6 Vocational migrations that further doomed the feudal system

Meanwhile, close to 2 million have migrated to the Middle East and South Asia and a majority of the migrants were females. Trend of migration is ever increasing and the following table shows the details of several aspects of these migrations from 2002 - 2010:

2002     2003     2004     2005     2006     2007     2008     2009     2010

Leaving the country/day 558       575       588       634       553       599       686       677       730

Expatriates (millions)      0.97      1.03      1.68      1.22     1.44      1.64      1.79     1.83      1.93

Percentage of workers  13.6       13.1      13.3      15.0      19.1      21.9      22.2      22.7      23.8

Of the total labor            14.9      14.3      14.5      17.2      20.4      23.3      23.4      24.1      25.1

In ME Nfhbapy;?         7557    7757     8787     11117   12828   16050   18903   22929   27968

In other countries Nfhbapy;? 4760   5885     7041     8407     9638     11622   12707   15350   18568

Apart from the above, tens of thousands who found work in the FTZs too dealt a blow to the semi feudalistic forces.

1.7 Leftist politics and nationalization that demolished the feudal system

In a political backdrop which brought in the semi colonialism in the place of colonialism, the political role of the leftists thanks to elections, and their quest for power helped create coalition governments and various reforms. Successive governments of left and right also provided the political base required to maim the semi colonial and semi feudal relationship for good.

Politicians introduced phony nationalistic reforms as well as racism in their pursuit to appease the majority race. The Lankan society became an educated lot by nationalizing properties of others and by making the introducing the Mother Tongue Act in the education system. This too began to express independent ideals affectively liberating itself from semi feudalistic system.  Efficient irrigation systems, new settlements, land ownership restrictions too expedited the plunge of the semi feudalistic system. Significantly, seven major factors helped eradicate semi feudalism and looting the toil of workers and triggered the emergence of independent middle class families in the farming community. However, while feudalism started to disappear gradually, plantation industry started to assume a capitalistic posture.

Land ownership of Lankan farmers

According to Word Bank 2001 report, 30 % of the total land area of Sri Lanka is utilized for cultivation, which is 2.26 million hectares. Statistics affirm that 26 % of the Lankan farmers had not had lands of their own while 42 % possessed one acre and less. Percentage of the farmers who owned land one acre and less rose to 43 % by 1982. This area represented 8 % of the total land mass of the island. By the same period, 82 % owned land 2.5 acres and less and 63.6 owned at least 2 acres.

In 1946, per capita land ownership average of Lankan farmers stood at 3.32 acres which dwindled to 2.78 in 1962 and to 2.16 acres by 1973. By 1983 it became 1.93 acres. Consistency in this dispersion indicates the independency of the farmers.

Meanwhile, 71.2 % of the farmers were dependent on 56 % of small agricultural produce for their own consumptions and 76.8 % of the farmers were engaged in ancestral agricultural activities carried out on 63 % farmland.

58.9 % of the day wage earners in the agricultural sector do not possess land except home gardens. Meanwhile, 51.8 % of the farmers had turned to non agricultural activities as their livelihood. Generally, farmers as well as farm hands did not totally rely on agriculture as their vocation. The fact that 65 % of the rural farmers have other vocational affiliation further asserts this point.

Plantation workers are the reason why the percentages of the farmers who do not have lands remain almost unchanged during the period 1946 - 1982 as a majority of the agro labors are working in large plantation ventures. However, this sector is not immune to changes. During the period 1980 - 2003 274,000 workers left the plantation industry. Again the exodus amounted to 45,000 during the period 2003 - 2010.

Plantation sector -  Manpower 2001 – 2009

Year                                 2001 2002     2003     2004     2005     2006     2007     2008     2009

Workers (thousands)   273          266       253       248       251       244       230       228211

Staff (millions)                 1.485  1.442    1.416    1.399    1.404    1.364    1.304    1.361    1.285

As a percentage             95        95         95         95         95         95         95         94         94

At present there are 210,000 day wage earners working in the plantation industry who do not have land of their own.

Apart from this according to the statistics available, independent small scale farming operations can be seen widely in Sri Lanka that are not semi feudal or capitalistic in nature. Mostly, poor and middle class people are seen in this sector. It is in this socio-economic backdrop, one has to perceive why the three wars took place in Sri Lanka erupted from a petty bourgeoisie outlook.

Globalization and land ownership

Independent small scale farming operations and capitalistic large scale plantations can be seen in Sri Lanka.

After 1978 the trend of socio economic neo colonialism and globalization could be seen accelerating in Sri Lanka. And state plantations were gradually handed over to private ownerships. Additionally, thousands of hectares of land were given to the private sector for cultivation. Fort instance, an American company DOLE was given 62,500 hectares for plantation scattered in the island. It should be noted that the total arable land area of the country is 2.26 million hectares.

Presently, farms are established that are capitalistic and neo colonial in contour. These projects are exempted from standard trade practices similar to FTZs and looting the workers have been legally facilitated.

Additional information on land utilization in Sri Lanka.

63.6 % of the land mass of the country lies in the dry zone while 23.2 % id in the wet zone and 13.2 % land area is in the intermediary zone.

According to statistics gathered in 1982, 30 % of the total land area is forestry while 40 % is utilized for cultivation. Of the total cultivated area, 28 % is utilized for paddy while 40 % is utilized for other crops.

When we observe the land utilization in 2002 it could be seen that 1.5 million (hectares?) (24 %) are utilized for cultivation while 1.23 million (hectares?) (19 %) is sporadically utilized for cultivation. Of the total area of cultivation paddy, tea, rubber and coconut are cultivated in 852,529, 188,971, 157,403 and 4434,952 hectares respectively.

Generally, non paddy crops are produced by large plantation projects while paddy is mainly produced by independent small farming communities.

As far as tea is concerned, it could be seen that nationalized tea estates are becoming under small scale private ownerships. According to 1994 statistics, a total of 188,967 hectares were utilized for tea plantation. Of these acreage, small estates cultivated tea in 82,920 (43.88 %) hectares while large plantation companies cultivated tea in 106,047 (56.12 %) hectares. In 1982 these figures were respectively 207,147 (total tea cultivation), 67,504 (32.59 %) hectares (small estates) and 139,643 (64.41 %) hectares (plantation companies).

Accordingly, during the period 1982 - 1994 small tea estate holdings shrank to 22.84 % while large tea estate holdings (state land) dwindled to 24.06 %.

Presently, privatization of tea estates has become a policy of the government. In this context, relations of produce have become neo colonialism act based on capitalism.

Land compared to the demography in Sri Lanka

Year                Total land area               population        average per capita

1871                 6,550,000                      2,400,000                      2.7 %

1901                 6,550,000                      3,500,000                      1.8 %

1953                 6,550,000                      8,100,000                      0.8 %

1986                 6,550,000                      16,500,000                    0.4 %

2000                 6,550,000                    20, 000, 0000                  0.3 %

Land area shrinks along with the population growth. One third of the total area of the country is utilized for agriculture. According to this average agricultural land is 0.1 hectare (0.24 acre). According to 2010 statistics average land per person of the 25,19 yl;rk;(?) is 0.8 hectares or 2 acres.

Land utilization in Sri Lanka during 1996




Roads, flood drainages, abandoned land


8.9 %

Water accumulating land and forests


30.5 %

Steep land


5.8 %

land higher than 1500 meters


1.2 %



1.2 %

Walkways & marshland


1.1 %

Land currently utilized


40.2 %

Land rarely utilized (turning over, agriculture)


11.1 %




Total land area is classified according to utilization

Land utilization in 1996




Big plantations (tea, rubber)



Other sustainable crops






Other crops



Timber production and related forests



Grazing land



Deserted yet arable land



Roads and buildings



Rocky and wasted land






Of the total land utilized, big plantations utilizes 39.77 & while paddy is cultivated in 27.75 %. Big plantations and sustainable crops represent approximately 50 % of the total land utilized.

Fluctuations in the utilization of arable land during the period 1946 - 1982





1962 -1982 (in percentage)





+ 8.73
















A trend of paddy cultivation infiltrating big plantation could be observed since 1946. During the period 1946 - 1982 land utilized for tea, rubber and coconut gradually decreased respectively by 10 %, 25 % and 9 % while paddy lands have increased by 9 %.

During 1956, forests represented 44.6 of the total land area and this percentage dwindled to 22.4 % in 2000. Due to endless deforesting, 15,000 hectares are being affected annually. During 1980, when large scale irrigation projects were launched, this number increased dramatically. In the meantime, large estates were subjected to forest expansion. Out of the 23 regions where large plantations operated, 20 were transformed into forests, utilizing an area of 7673 hectares. However, paddy cultivation increased from 1.7 million to 2 million during the period 1948 - 2002.

Patterns of land utilization (in hectares) and their percentage

Hectares                        Percentage

Thick forests                                                     175.238      - 10 %

tea estates                                                        33.596                          - 24 %

Paddy, wet zone                                                13.421                          - 8 %

Rubber                                                              9.649                            - 6 %

Urbanization                                          462.295             + 512 %

House                                                               100.202       + 8 %

Paddy, dry zone                                                43.036                    + 8 %

Coconut, scattered                                             22.192       + 93 %

Coconut, other than scattered                              5.599                           + 1 %

The lowest utilization had been 231.904 hectares while highest had been 633.324 hectares. During 1983 - 1994 land utilization had increased by 410,420 hectares.

Cultivated land area during 2007-2010 in hectares

2007                  2008                 2009                 2010

Total paddy                   816,713             1,052,993          977,144             106, 5281

Main season                  525,338             581,597             632,128             64, 6037

Secondary season         291,375             421,396             345,016             419,244

Tea                               212,715             221,969             221,969             221,969

Rubber                          116,478             116,478             124,000             124,734

Coconut                        394,836             394,836             394,836             394,836

Cinnamon                     25,760              26,770              28,090              28,864

Coffee                          10,170              8,790                8,720                8,541

Pepper              30,520              34,070              36,180              37,344

House owners in percentage during 2006 - 2007

Category                       Total         Non poor                          Poor

Whole island                  86>8                           87>6                           81>8

Urban               80.3                            81.1                            65.2

Rural                            92.0                            92.2                            90.8

Estates                         23.8                            25.0                            20.2

Generally it can be seen that people living in estates and the poor living in urban areas are the ones that do not own houses the most.

During 1980 - 1984 land utilization had been 1,879,180 hectares. Of this crops were cultivated in 1,288,539 while houses were built on 499,470 hectares and prairies were 91,180 hectare. The following table breaks this down to districts:

District Cultivation House Prairies Total

Jaffna                           10.510                          6.810                10                     17.330

Kilinochchi                    16.300                          10.230              420                   26.950

Vavuniya                       40.150                          17.750              370                   58.270

Mulativu                        22.400                          13.010              640                   36.050

Polonnaruwa                 51.120                          40.600              10.750              102.470

Hambantota                  69.330                          39.970              1.950                111.250

Ratnapura                     101.570                         11.970              3.150                111.690

Puttlam             58.700                          19.430              4.240                82.370

Kurunegala                    112.710             7.280               120                   120.110

Badulla                         84.430                          14.240              10.230              108.900

Monaragala                   186.330             44.070              14.130              244.530

Kandy                           28.280                          12.110              6.010                46.400

Nuwara-Eliya                 8.630                            9.880                7.560                26.070

Galle                             16.320                          960                   910                   18.190

Matara                          9.690                            0                      200                   9.890

Matale                          45.600                          20.180              5.580                71.360

Ampara                         127.720             33.410              3.030                164.160

Colombo                       750                               580                   700                   2.030

Kaluthara                      14.840                          650                   80                     15.570

Mannar                         11.590                          22.410              3.680                37.680

Anuradhapura                186.500             103.790 1.720                292.010

Batticaloa                      38.920                          35.240              15.040              89.200

Trincomalee                  46.000                          33.230              260                   79.490

Gampaha                      120                               740                   200                   1.060

Kegalle                         20                                 930                   200                   1.150

Total                             1.288.530                      499.470 91.180              1.879.180

Percentage of national revenue based on main professions

2002     2003     2004     2005     2006     2007     2008     2009     2010

Agriculture         14.3      13.7      13.0      12.5      12.3      11.9      12.1      12.0      11.9

Industry            28.0      27.7      27.7      28.1      28.2      28.5     28.4      28.6      28.7

Services           57.7      58.6      59.3      59.4      59.5      59.6      59.5      59.3      59.3

This in indicates that national revenue from agricultural activities are gradually diminishing.

Percentage of Lankans dependant on agriculture:

2002      2003     2004     2005     2006     2007     2008     2009     2010

Agriculture         34.5      34.0      33.5      30.3      32.2      31.3      32.7      32.6      32.7

Percentage of the labor force in the agriculture sector

1990     1991     1992     1993     1994     1995     1996     1997     1998     1999     2000     2001

29.2      23.8      29.2      30.6      25.2      24.7      23.5      22.7      24.9      22.1      25.7      22.8

Agriculture in 2006 (work dispersal)

Total             % Agriculture          %                    Others              %

Total     7,081,435          100      2,346,321           33,1                  4,735,113          66,9

Employees        3,917,902          100       718,280             18.3                  3,199,622          81.7

Employers         223,328             100       22,766              10.2                  2, 005, 62          89.8

Self-employment 2,236,928             100       1,092,960          48.9                  1,143,968          51.1

Family business 703,277            100       512,315             72.8                  190,962             27.2

2.346 million were engaged in agriculture during 2006. Out of this, 1.6 million were independent farmers while 0.718 million were hired hands. Most of the day wagers are found in estates. The number of employers had been 22, 7000 during the same period.

Key industrial sectors and dispersion of work

Total        Agriculture      Industry                Serive

Urban               100                   4.0                    26.6                              69.4

Rural                            100                   34.4                  24.7                              41.0

Estates                         100                   69.4                  11.4                              19.2

Percentages of self employed farmers are 34.4 % while 65.6 % are engaged in non agricultural labors. 69.4 % of the total work force is employed in estates.

Additional information on land utilization helps in typing socio economic relationship of Sri Lanka.

Social divisions

According to 2009 - 2010 statistics, 20 % had access to 54.12 % of the wealth while 20 % had access only to 4.5 % of the wealth. 60 % of the remaining classes in between consummated the 41.4 %. Out of this, 40 % consumed 13.3 % of the wealth. Accordingly, 60 % only consumed 17.8 as a whole. This is a dramatic disparity in a poor country which is a predominantly labor oriented one.

20 % estate people are the most affected by poverty which is 30 % in the estates. National percentage of poverty is 23 % while it is 25 % and 8 % in rural and urban areas respectively.

Percentage of poverty during 1990 - 2002- Estates, rural areas, urban areas

Category                       1990-91 1995-96 2002

Whole island                   26                    29                     23

Urban                           16                     14                     8

Rural                            29                     31                     25

Estates                         21                     38                     30

Abject poverty can be seen in the lower level

Social groups

Percentage of employment opportunities according to sex

Total                       Males                      Females

Total                             100.0                          66.6                33.4

Employees                                100.0                          67.3                32.7

Employer                                  100.0                          90.3                9.7

Self-employment                        100.0                          76.1                23.9

Family business                        100.0                          28.2                71.8

According to 2009 - 2010 statistics population dispersion in areas:

Urban population - 3 million

Rural population - 16.3 million

Estate population- One million

Income 2009 - 2010

Monthly household income - Whole island LKR 23,746

Monthly household income - Urban LKR 31,000

Monthly household income - Rural LKR 23,126

Monthly household income - Estates LKR 17,366

Total household income in 2009 - 10 percentage

Income LKR                  Total                 Urban               Rural                Estates

100                  100                 100                 100

1. Less than 8627        10>0               5>0                 10>7               13>4

2. 8627-12500          10>0               6>6                 10>3               15>3

3. 12501-16019        10>0               6>7                 10>2               15>8

4. 16020-19655        10>0               8>1                 10>1               14>0

5. 19656-23746        10>0               8>2                 10>2               11>9

6. 23747-28502        10>0               10>5               9>9                 10>6

7. 28503-35167        10>0               11>5               9>9                 7>0

8. 35168-44762        10>0               11>9               9>9                 5>5

9. 44763-64443        10>0               13>9               9>7                 3>9

10. 64443 Nky;         10>0               17>7               9>1                 2>7

2010 - Key industries  - Average monthly wage in LKR

Sector                                Agriculture               Industry            Service

Monthly wage                10,340                          13,618              18,795

Average monthly wage               8,500                            11,000              17,340

Day wage                                 7,670                            10,428              9,778

Average day wage                     7,200                            10,000              9,000

2010 – Urban - Rural - Average monthly wage in LKR

Urban                Rural

Monthly wage;                            19,960             16,105

Average monthly wage;              16,000              15,000

Day wage                                  10,526             9,170

Average day wage                     10,000              8,400

Main industrial clusters                     Whole island           Urban                 Rural               Estates

Agriculture                                             45>0               6>4                 44>4               73>2

Industry                                               23>2               28>2               24>4               9>1

Service                                                 31>8               65>3               31>1               17>7

Total                                              100>0                    100>0                         100>0                         100>0

During 2009 432,000 were unemployed and 22.7 % of the work force had been engaged in agriculture and fishing. There are 21,551 small fishing boats in the country that are utilized for fishing on a daily basis. During 2005  400,000 were engaged in angling. There are 137,300 small fishing boats which catches 88 % of the fish in which 160,300 fishermen were engaged. Local aquatic resources produce 12 % of the output.

In 2008 765,000 workers were affiliated in 1956 labor unions. There had been 51 strikes so far in which 37,931 participated. Strikes have lasted for 65,655 days.

Percentage of debts and debtors  2006 - 2007

LKR                     Non poor                                         Poor             Total

Debtless                       37.3                                        46.8                38.5

Less than 10>000       15.4                                        32.2                17.5

10>001-25>000                    11>6                                       11>0               11>6

25>001-50>000                    11>6                                       6>1                 10>9

50>001-100>000      9.3                                           3.9                   8.5

100>001-500>000   11.4                                        -                       10.1

Above; 500>000         3.3                                           -                       2.9

Total                 100>0                                                 100>0                         100>0

60 % of the population are indebted. Ironically affluent are more in debt than the poor.

State of employment  2010 Persons

Total                  %

Total                 7706593        100>0

Employees                   4276803        55>5 (State sector 14.3 % - Private sector 41.2 %)

State sector      1099803        14>3 (Males 12.8 % - Females 17.3 %)

Private sector                3177000        41>2 (Males 43.3 % - Females 37 %)

Employers                     201134           2>6  (Males 3.5 % -  Females 0.8 %)

Self employment            2425568        31>5 (Males 25.9 % - Females 22.2 %)

Family business           803089            10.4 (Males 4.4 % -   Females 22.4 %)


Sri Lanka is not a semi colonial or semi feudal country any longer. It is essentially a neo colonial country based on semi feudalism. Moreover, agriculture of the country is predominantly independent farmer oriented activity and moves on neo colonial capitalistic posture.

Sri Lanka is also a country based on petty bourgeoisie classes along with a labor class and it is a neo colonial capitalistic country where any capitalistic democratic uprising had never taken place.

Explication of units for better understanding this article

Million - One thousand 1000s

Hectares - 2.47105 acres

Acres - 0.4946 hectares

Sources of Information

1.Sri Lanka Combined Research 1999-2000

2. Sri Lanka Labor Force Survey Annual Report – 2010

3. Revitalizing Small-Scale Agriculture: Rental Policies of Alienated State Lands of Sri Lanka

4.2002 Report of Census and Satistics Department

5. Word Bank> 2001

6.2002 Report of Department of Agriculture

7.Land use in Sri Lanka: past, present and the future - Symposium no. 31/ Paper no. 974

8.Sri Lanka Integrated Survey, 1999-2000

9.Wanigaratne, 2006

10. The politics of land reform and land settlement in Sri Lanka By Sunil Bastian

11. Land Reform Commission

12.Land Reform in Sri Lanka - Vijaya Samaraweera

13. Relations of produce in Sri Lanka

14.Status of organic agriculture in Sri Lanka

15.Land Availability and Land Tenure

16.Land Reform in Sri Lanka - Vijaya Samaraweera

17. Rice in Sri Lanka

18.Poverty in Sri Lanka - (Based on Household Income and Expenditure Survey - 2006/07)

19. Bulletin of Labor Force Statistics of Sri Lanka Issue No.34 - Department of Census & Statistics

20. Agriculture and Natural Resources Sector – ADB

21. Labor Force Survey - Annual Report 2

New Democratic Peoples Front

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 21:34


0 #1 luigi4235 2015-02-14 13:55
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