882.6176 F 51/24

The Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Castle) to the General Receiver of Customs of Liberia (De la Rue)

My Dear Mr. De la Rue: In answer to the telegram of February 25th from the Legation, in which you ask statistical information on rubber companies’ payments to governments, etc., I pass on the following:

In the first place, the Department of Commerce is making a survey of the crude rubber situation, but this survey has not yet been put into such form that publication is possible. Commerce states, however, that there is some information as to land rents per acre.

In British Malaya, the price goes up to $2.00; in Sumatra, it is about 8 cents for the first year, rising to 48 cents in the sixth and following years; in Cochin China, it is 29 cents; in Java, 21 cents; in Borneo, free for the first six years, 25 cents for the next four years and thereafter $2.00; in the Philippines the annual rent is 3 per cent of the appraised value of the land, subject to change every ten years. The British Colonies have an export tax of one cent a pound, but in all other countries there is no export tax whatever.

As to the length of the leases, those in Sumatra are for 75 years, subject to renewal of 50 years more, the area is unlimited; in British Malaya there are unlimited areas and the leases are in perpetuity; in the Philippines the leases are limited to 2,530 acres for 25 years, subject to renewal for two additional periods of 25 years each.

It should be pointed out, however, that the question immediately arises as to whether the foregoing figures fairly constitute comparable statistics. The territories mentioned are proven ground and may perhaps not properly be compared with Liberia where the possibility of successful production has not been demonstrated. We have no idea what rents and taxes, if any, were imposed originally in these territories since such figures, if available, have not been furnished us. The best comparison would, as you will see, necessarily be with rents and taxes in absolutely new and untried areas.

Other facts also are to be taken into consideration and with regard to some of these Liberia may be at a disadvantage. Labor must be taken into consideration, also shipping and other communication facilities, climatic conditions, etc.

The Department hopes strongly that a suitable agreement may be reached. It is my own hope that even before this letter reaches you the contracts may have been made effective. It is very clear that if such agreements can be reached and if in consequence successful production of rubber is effected, this would tend not only to benefit [Page 420] American consumers of rubber who are now dependent on a foreign controlled supply, but also must be of very great material advantage to Liberia, both economically and financially regardless of the immediate or direct financial benefits accruing to the country through the contracts.

The Department will, of course, forward to you the Commerce survey of the situation when and if it is published. I cannot help feeling that it would be very unfortunate to supply figures as to rent, etc. to the Liberian Government without proper comment which would point out the possible, if not probable, differences in the situation there and in countries where the commercial production of rubber has been proved profitable.

Very sincerely,

Wm. R. Castle, Jr.