The appearance of the latter has deceived every one, especially the black soil of the patina, which my bailiff, on his first arrival declared to be excellent. Lord Torrington, who is well known as an agriculturist, was equally deceived. He was very confident in the opinion that "it only required draining to enable it to produce anything." The real fact is, that it is far inferior to the forest-land, and will not pay for the working.
Nevertheless, it is my decided opinion that the generality of the forest-land at Newera Ellia and the vicinity is superior to that in other parts of Ceylon.
There are necessarily rich lots every now end then in such a large extent as the surface of the low country; but these lots usually lie on the banks of rivers which have been subjected to inundations, and they are not fair samples of Ceylon soil. A river's bank or a valley's bottom must be tolerably good even in the poorest country.
The great proof of the general poverty of Ceylon is shown in the failure of every agricultural experiment in which a rich soil is required.
Cinnamon thrives; but why? It delights in a soil of quartz sand, in which nothing else would grow.
Cocoa-nut trees flourish for the same reason ; sea air, a sandy soil and a dry subsoil are all that the cocoa-nut requires.
On the other hand, those tropical productions which require a strong soil invariably prove failures, and sugar, cotton, indigo, hemp and tobacco cannot possibly be cultivated with success.
Even on the alluvial soil upon the banks of rivers sugar does not pay the proprietor. The only sugar estate in the island that can keep its head above water is the Peredinia estate, within four miles of Kandy. This, again, lies upon the bank of the Mahawelli river, and it has also the advantage of a home market for its produce, as it supplies the interior of Ceylon at the rate of twenty-three shillings per cwt. upon the spot.