The Secretary of State to the Minister in Costa Rica (Scotten)

No. 627

Sir: The Board of Economic Warfare10 is anxious to establish through Defense Supplies Corporation11 in some Latin American country a plantation for the cultivation and development of cinchona trees from which quinine and other anti-malarial products may be derived. Prior to the present war, over 95 percent of the world’s quinine came from the Netherlands East Indies where cinchona trees were scientifically cultivated. Trees known as “Cinchona ledgeriana” were developed there which produced a very high quinine content. [Page 95] The more common “Cinchona succirubra” of South America produces bark with a much lower quinine content. At present the sole source of quinine for the United States is the bark of wild cinchona trees of a few Latin American countries, and it is essential to the war effort that new sources of quinine be developed.

Colonel Fischer12 of the United States Army, who has had more than twenty years experience with cinchona plantations in the Philippines and the East Indies, escaped from Bataan with over 2,000,000 cinchona seeds of the ledgeriana variety. These seeds are now being cared for by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Defense Supplies Corporation plans to establish in Latin America a plantation upon which the seeds brought by Colonel Fischer from the Philippines may be grown and various experiments conducted with reference to cinchona. It is planned that Colonel Fischer will be placed in charge of the plantation and will have a number of technical experts to assist him.

Defense Supplies Corporation would like to establish and operate such a plantation in Costa Rica. In order to assure room for expansion and development of the project it will require 10,000 acres of land, preferably cleared or semi-cleared.

The enclosed Memorandum of Understanding should be submitted to the Costa Rican Government as soon as possible. You will note that the Costa Rican Government is asked to make the necessary lands available to Defense Supplies Corporation by lease, concession or otherwise for a period of twenty-five years. Naturally we would much prefer that the Republic of Costa Rica would, as its contribution to this project, grant a concession of government lands without charge to Defense Supplies Corporation. If this is not possible, Defense Supplies Corporation would be willing to lease or purchase the necessary lands. The program contemplates the surrender of the plantation and the buildings thereon within twenty-five years to the Republic of Costa Rica, and a concession to Government-owned lands would therefore seem most appropriate.

The interest of Supplies Corporation is primarily to assure the United Nations a reserve supply of quinine in the event the present war is a prolonged one. Consequently the measure should be presented to the Costa Rican Government as a mutual war project. Of secondary importance is the fact that the proposed plantation will probably become the nucleus of a permanent cinchona bark industry in the Western Hemisphere. In this connection it should be observed that Defense Supplies Corporation will make available to the Republic of Costa Rica technical and scientific information acquired by it in the operation of the plantation.

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The project will be conducted so as to comply in all respects with the applicable laws of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is asked only to make necessary lands available, not to impose taxes, fees, charges, etc., which would hinder the full development of the plantation, and not to restrict the exportation of seeds, stems, roots, or bark of cinchona trees to friendly nations for a twenty-five year period. If any question is raised concerning this latter provision, you may state that its intention is only to assure access to a source of cinchona ledgeriana seed by the United States and other nations, particularly those of the Western Hemisphere.

It is necessary for the preservation of the seeds that they be transplanted as quickly as possible. If the enclosed Memorandum is approved in the near future, the Board of Economic Warfare will immediately send representatives to Costa Rica to search for suitable lands and it is expected that the project could be put under way within a few months. Inasmuch as the Board of Economic Warfare and Defense Supplies Corporation would like to proceed with the project as rapidly as possible, you should ascertain and advise us whether any objection might be had to sending a survey party to Costa Rica prior to execution of the agreement.

Mr. R. V. Dewey, special representative of the Board of Economic Warfare and Defense Supplies Corporation, is informed of the proposal and should be able to give you valuable assistance in the presentation of this Memorandum and should be asked to participate with you in discussions concerning it.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Dean Acheson

Memorandum of Understanding

Between the Republic of Costa Rica and Defense Supplies Corporation, an Agency of the United States, concerning the Establishment of a Plantation for the Planting, Cultivation and Harvesting of Cinchona Trees in Costa Rica

The parties intend this agreement to be a concrete implementation of the Resolutions of the Final Act of the Third Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics and a means of furthering the effectiveness of Resolution II of the Rio de Janeiro Conference.13 The parties hereto have designed this agreement in [Page 97] furtherance of their mutual war effort and in recognition of the desirability of establishing a permanent and independent cinchona bark industry in Costa Rica.

The Republic of Costa Rica will make available to Defense Supplies Corporation by lease, concession, or otherwise, for a period of twenty-five years, approximately 10,000 acres of land suitable for the planting of cinchona trees. The Government of Costa Rica will exert its best efforts to cooperate with representatives of Defense Supplies Corporation in selecting such land and, to the extent possible, will make available such lands as may be recommended to it by representatives of Defense Supplies Corporation. In consideration of the Republic of Costa Rica making such lands available, Defense Supplies Corporation will, within twenty-five years from the date of this agreement, surrender such lands, including all buildings erected thereon and cinchona trees growing thereon, to the Republic of Costa Rica. Defense Supplies Corporation, however, shall have the privilege to surrender such lands, including the buildings and cinchona trees thereon, at any time within such twenty-five year period.
Defense Supplies Corporation is hereby granted the right to establish a cinchona plantation upon such lands, and the exclusive right to operate, control and manage such plantation and the harvesting of cinchona trees thereon. Defense Supplies Corporation shall have the right to clear the lands, to erect buildings, laboratories, and other facilities thereon and to do all things upon such lands necessary or desirable for the proper operation of a cinchona plantation, the harvesting of cinchona bark and the extraction of quinine and other anti-malarial products from such bark. Defense Supplies Corporation shall be free to dispose of its personal property, machinery and equipment used in connection with the plantation and the products produced on the plantation. The project shall be conducted in all respects in accordance with the applicable laws of the Republic of Costa Rica.
Defense Supplies Corporation agrees to make available to the Republic of Costa Rica technical and scientific information acquired by it in connection with the operation of the plantation.
Defense Supplies Corporation will pay to its workers at least the wages paid for similar agricultural work in Costa Rica; will provide reasonably adequate safeguards against accidents; will furnish its employees with adequate and suitable shelter, water, sanitation, medical treatment and protection against diseases upon a fair and equitable basis; and, if necessary, will assure such laborers and employees an adequate food supply at a reasonable cost.
The Republic of Costa Rica agrees that, during the twenty-five years following execution of this agreement, it will not restrict in any form the exportation to friendly nations of seeds, stems, roots or bark of cinchona trees or anti-malarial products produced from cinchona trees grown on the plantation herein contemplated.
The Republic of Costa Rica looks with favor upon the development of an established cinchona bark plantation industry in Costa Rica and to this end agrees that during the term of this agreement, it will not impose new, or increase existing, taxes, fees, imposts, excises or other charges upon cinchona bark, trees or products thereof or impose restrictions which might hinder the effective development of such a cinchona bark industry.
The parties hereto agree to cooperate and exert their best efforts to establish a successful cinchona plantation industry in Costa Rica and to this end will consult with one another from time to time for purposes of adopting necessary or desirable measures designed to accomplish this objective.
Defense Supplies Corporation
Republic of Costa Rica
  1. An emergency war agency of the United States Government.
  2. A United States Government agency within the Department of Commerce.
  3. Col. Arthur F. Fischer.
  4. For text of the Final Act of the Conference held January 15–28, 1942, see Department of State Bulletin, February 7, 1942, p. 117. Resolution II (ibid., p. 119) concerned the economic mobilization of the American Republics to supply strategic and basic materials necessary to the defense of the Hemisphere.